Primary tabs



Shrubs or small trees (up to 25 m tall), usually evergreen. Leaves alternate, simple, spirally arranged to usually clustered at stem apex; stipules present or absent, usually inconspicuous or caducous; usually petiolate (rarely sub-sessile); blades glabrous, margin entire, often coriaceous. Inflorescences terminal, sometimes axillary racemes; bracts (single) and bracteoles (paired) present or absent. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic or slightly zygomorphic, 5-merous, pedicellate; sepals and petals imbricate, free or basally connate, sepals persistent, petals white to pink, usually with inrolled margins; stamens 5 or 10, usually opposite petals, in 1 or 2 (in Purdiaea Planch.) whorls, filaments free, anthers 2-locular, opening by apical pores or longitudinal slits, versatile; nectary-disc present around base of ovary or absent; ovary superior, 2-5-locular, style usually short, stigma entire or 1-3(-4)-lobed, ovules 1-3 per locule, pendulous, anatropous. Fruits indehiscent, berries or capsules, dry; seeds 1-few, endosperm copious.


Andes present present, Guianas present, Neotropics present, Northern America, Southern America, northern S America present, south and eastern U.S.A present
A tropical family of 3 genera and ca. 14 species; in the Neotropics only 2 genera occur (Cliftonia Banks ex C.F. Gaertn. is basically a N American genus), from south and eastern U.S.A, through Mexico and the West Indies down to northern S America, except the Andes (only Purdiaea nutans Planch. has been recorded to reach the Andes); in the Guianas only 1 species.

Taxonomic changes

  • Cyrilla breviflora N.E. Br.


The CYRILLACEAE forms a family of small shrubs and trees belonging to 3 genera of which only one, the monospecific Cyrilla, is found in the Guianas. Cyrilla racemiflora L. is a shrub, with many slender stems, or small tree. In tropical regions it can attain heights of 10 m or more (Record & Hess 1943; Thomas 1960). It grows close to water bodies thus accounting for the spongy, pliable bark at the base of the trunk. Although the timber has a fine uniform texture and is easy to work, its tendency to warp renders it with little commercial value however it has been exploited for charcoal production (Record & Hess 1943). Its bark is rich in phenolic compounds and has been used as a styptic or astringent (Thomas 1960 and references therein).
Terms are used in accordance with the defined descriptions according to the IAWA list of microscopic features for hardwood identification (IAWA Committee 1989).
A. -empty team- – In: InsideWood, B. Araujo, P.A. de M. & A. de Mattos Filho. 1974: Estutura das madeiras brasileiras de angispermas dicotiledôneas (VI). Cyrillaceae (Cyrilla antillana Michx.). – Rodriguésia 27, C. Détienne, P. & J. Jacquet. 1983 – In: Atlas d’identification des bois de l’Amazonie et des régions voisines, D. Heimsch, C. 1942: Comparative anatomy of the secondary xylem in the Gruinales and Terebinthales of Wettstein with reference to taxonomic grouping. – Lilloa 8, E. IAWA Committee. 1989: The IAWA list of microscopic features for hardwood identification. – IAWA Bull. n.s. 10, F. Lens, F., S. Jansen, P. Caris, L. Serlet & E. Smets. 2005: Comparative wood anatomy of the primuloid clade (Ericales s.l.). – Syst. Bot. 30, G. Record, S.J. & R.W. Hess. 1936: Identification of woods with conspicuous rays. – Trop. Woods 48, H. Record, S.J. & R.W. Hess. 1943 – In: Timbers of the New World, I. Schneider, E.L. & S. Carlquist. 2003: Unusual pit membrane remnants in perforation plates of Cyrillaceae. – J. Torrey Bot. Soc. 130, J. Thomas, J.L. 1960: A monographic study of the Cyrillaceae. – Contr. Gray Herb. 186, K. Vliet, G.L.C.M. van 1976: Radial vessels in rays. – IAWA Bull. 3


CYRILLACEAE have traditionally been placed in the ERICALES (sensu Cronquist, 1981), usually close to the ERICACEAE and CLETHRACEAE. These positions have been supported by analyses of DNA sequence data (Anderberg et al., 2002). The family is related to the CLETHRACEAE from which it differs by its indehiscent fruit, number of carpels and locules (3 in Clethra L.), presence of nectary disc and few ovules (numerous in Clethra). Besides Cyrilla, the only other tropical American genus recorded, Purdiaea Planch., has its centre of diversification in Cuba, and has been recorded in the Guayana Highlands of Venezuela (Miller, 1998; Ståhl, 2004), Colombia (Thomas, 1960), Ecuador (Ståhl, 1992) and Peru (Pennington et al., 2004).