Trees, shrubs (often scandent) or herbs. Leaves large or small, alternate or more rarely opposite, sometimes crowded apically on the branches, sessile with narrow base or stalked. Inflorescences terminal or lateral, usually dichotomously or trichotomously branched, composed of unilateral cymes without bracts. Flowers tetra- or pentamerous. Stamens included in the corolla, with very short filaments, sometimes mucronulate at apex. Fruit either a white drupe with juicy mesocarp (sect. Tournefortia and sect. Tetrandra) or dry, with a corky, vesicular mesocarp, endocarp breaking up into two 2-seeded or four 1-seeded pyrenes.
America: present Old World: present
About 150 species, most of which are native in America, about 15 species in the Old World.
Tournefortia argentea is used as a vegetable and the fruits are sometimes also eaten and have antihistaminic properties. Tournefortia sarmentosa also has medicinal applications. See.
In most publications of more recent times, the genus Tournefortia is confined to species with fleshy endocarp, while those with corky endocarp are assigned to Argusia Boehm. (= Messerschmidia Hebenstr.) with the type species A. sibirica (L.) Dandy. Argusia sibirica from the coast of the Black Sea to the Pacific coast of Siberia and N China on one side has not much in common with A. argentea (L. f.) Heine from the eastern coast of Africa to Australia and Polynesia and A. gnaphalodes (L.) Heine from the West Indies (type species of Mallotonia) on the other. Either three genera have to be recognized or Tournefortia must be taken in a wide sense to include all three as sections. The present author prefers to adopt the latter solution of the problem.
Dayang Awa - in Tree Fl. Sabah & Sarawak. 1996: 95
Heubl et al. - in Bot. Jahrb. 1990: 154
Backer & Bakh. f. - in FL Java. 1965: 460
Backer & Bakh.f. - in FL Java. 1965: 461
L., Gen. PL, ed. 5. 1754: 68
I.M.Johnston - in J. Arnold Arbor. 1935: 161
Dandy - in Reg. Veg. 1967: 28,121
Heine - in FL Nouv.-Caled. 1976: 108
I.M.Johnston - in J. Arnold Arbor. 1951: 118
Ng - in Tree Fl. Malaya. 1989: 58
Dandy - in Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 1972: 256
I.M.Johnston - in J. Arnold Arbor. 1935: 145