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Trees or shrubs, from ca. 0.5 m to 60(-70) m, taller ones often with buttresses, rarely spiny; only ‘combretaceous hairs’ present. Leaves spirally arranged, usually clustered at branchlet tips, sometimes with pocket-shaped or bowl-shaped domatia in secondary vein-axils; usually with petiolar glands. Inflorescences axillary lax to congested simple leafless spikes, spikes often clustered at branchlet-ends; bracts very small and caducous. Flowers bisexual or andromonoecious, actinomorphic, sessile, (4-)5-merous; lower hypanthium extended into a usually short 'neck'; upper hypanthium cupuliform to campanulate, deciduous before fruiting or sometimes persistent; calyx lobes (4-)5; petals 0; stamens (8 or)10, usually well exserted, anthers versatile; disk glabrous to densely pubescent; style free, usually exserted, glabrous or pubescent, baselly usually pubescent, glabrous towards apex. Fruit 2-5-winged or -ridged or terete, flattened to actinomorphic, usually dry or spongy, sometimes slightly succulent.


America present, E tropical Asia present, Guianas present, subtropical regions in N America present, subtropical regions in S America present, throughout the tropics present
At least 200 species throughout the tropics, extending to subtropical regions in S America (to 37° 15' S) and subtropical regions in N America (to 26° 40' N), the greatest number of species and variation occur in E tropical Asia; only 34 species occur in America; 7 species in the Guianas.


Our description, based on data for the 5 Guianan species studied here, suggests a relatively homogeneous wood structure. The wood of the large genus Terminalia as a whole, however, varies much more than can be concluded from the data given here. From van Vliet’s work it appears that there is a huge variation in vessel features, ray composition and crystal forms. Part of this variation was intraspecific, or could be attributed to different habitats. See van Vliet (1979) for an elaborate description based on 43 species for which data were available. Growth rings absent to distinct.
Vessels diffuse, solitary and in radial multiples of 2-3 (10); varying from (3-)4(-5) per mm² in T. dichotoma to (9-)12(-16) in T.catappa, tangential diameter (55-)125(-180) μm. Perforations simple with horizontal to oblique end walls. Intervessel pits alternate, crowded, alternate, 9-11 μm, 6-9 μm and sometimes coalescent in T. catappa. Vessel-ray pits similar but half-bordered, tending towards horizontal arrangement. Vessel-parenchyma arrangement sometimes elongate, tending towards scalariform. Thin-walled tyloses as well as solid amorphic contents present in T. catappa and T. dichotoma.
Rays uniseriate, rarely with a 2(-3)-seriate part, 7-18 per mm, mainly composed of (weakly) procumbent cells with square and upright cells; disjunctive elements present in T. quintalata.
Parenchyma apotracheal diffuse and in narrow marginal bands 1-3 cells wide; paratracheal vasicentric, aliform-confluent in T. amazonia, aliform-confluent to banded in T. catappa p.p. and T. dichotoma; strands of 5-8 cells.
Crystals absent, or rarely present in ray- and/or axial parenchyma cells, large and rhomboidal, elongated rod- to styloidlike; druses reported for T. catappa in axial parenchyma.
Ground tissue fibres thin- to thick-walled; non-septate, but septate in T. amazonica. Gelatinous fibres frequent in T. dichotoma, infrequent in the other species. Pits simple to minutely bordered, 1-3 μm, mainly on radial cell walls.


A world-wide sectional classification has not been fully worked out; at least 25 sections are currently recognised but several more should be described, especially in Asia; 12 of them occur in America and 7 sections in the Guianas. The sections are not used here.
In the Flora of Suriname, Terminalia buceras (L.) C. Wright was mentioned to occur in Suriname and Guyana, in Exell 1935: 174 as Buceras bucida Crantz, in Görts-van Rijn 1986: 354 corrected to Bucida buceras L. The specimen Splitgerber 354, from the sea-coast at Suriname, collected in flower in December 1837 and seen by Pulle for his Enumeration of vascular plants of Surinam (1906: 342), could not be traced by Exell (1935) and the present author. It is not in BM, BR, CGE, K, GOET, L or U. Pulle also mentioned its occurrence in Guyana, which I have again been unable to confirm.