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northern extratropical: present southern hemisphere: present
Cornaceae are in great majority northern extratropical, in which zone also many fossils are known. There are some stray genera on the southern hemisphere. Mastixia is tropical but was found in abundance in the Tertiary in the subtropics and warm-temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. See under the genus.


In the past century Cornaceae were mostly delimited in a wide sense and they represented a fairly heterogeneous assemblage. HARMS () distinguished 7 subfamilies. Of these Garryoideae were later mostly recognized as a separate family Garryaceae, Alangioideae as Alangiaceae, Nyssoideae and Davidioideae together as Nyssaceae, leaving Cornaceae with the remaining three subfamilies Cornoideae, Curtisioideae (monotypic, South Africa) and Mastixioideae (monotypic, Indo-Malesian tropics). Cf. .
In recent years, however, the other genera (6) of the Cornoideae, besides Cornus, have also been recognized as monotypic families, with the exception of Corokia which was transferred to Saxifragaceae-Escallonioideae. Notably TAKHTAJAN (Proiskh. Prokruitosem. Rast.: 89, non vidi) is in favour of these monotypic families. In his 'Flowering Plants' () he accepted 7 segregate families besides Cornaceae sensu str. (omitting mention of two Madagascan genera, one of which he had formerly also raised to family rank, according to SHAW, 1973). These 7 families he arranged, together with Araliaceae and Umbelliferae, in the order Cornales, a phylogenetic construction of affinity not much different from earlier conceptions. The general impression is thus that the distinction of the segregate families is largely an inflation in rank.
We have not followed this tendency towards inflation advocated by a few contemporary systematists and have accepted Cornaceae in the wide sense. We do not feel that inflation has the merit of improving scientific insight in the mutual systematical affinities, which remain as they were, either as tribes or as subfamilies, representing together one phylogenetical whole. In addition the disadvantage of the inflation is that the multiplication of family names becomes unnecessarily a real challenge to our capacity to memorize, and deflates firmly established family concepts.
We briefly mention that further relationships are sometimes suggested with quite remote groups. RENDLE () suggested alliance with Caprifoliaceae, e.g. Viburnum; affinity has also been suggested with Saxifragaceae-Escallonioideae. It falls beyond the scope of the present account to elaborate further the extensive literature on the subject.


Besides the native genus Mastixia the family is represented in Java by Aucuba japonica THUNB. which is sometimes cultivated in the mountains. Cf. . — Ed.