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This is a relatively small family, most diverse in northern South America but also in Africa, Madagascar and from India to northern Australia, where two genera occur in rainforests, gallery forests along streams, monsoonal woodlands and behind tropical beaches, from the Kimberley region of Western Australia across northern Australia to south-east Queensland.

Characteristic features of the family Lecythidaceae in Australia include:

  • trees or large shrubs, often spreading, with large, simple, entire, alternate leaves usually clustered at the branch-tips.
  • flowers bisexual, usually showy, borne in racemes or clusters terminal to shoots or sometimes on old wood
  • sepals and petals 4-6, free or fused
  • stamens numerous and conspicuous, the long filaments white or pink to red, fused together at the base into one or more rings
  • ovary inferior, developing into a large, often angular nut


Evergreen trees or shrubs. Internal secretions not obvious. Plants glabrous or with simple, non-glandular, unicellular hairs. Leaves alternate and spiral, or whorled, or pseudo-whorled, petiolate. Stipules absent, or present and distinct and free from the petiole, falling off early. Lamina simple, symmetric, lanceolate, ovate, oblanceolate, oblong or spathulate; base cuneate or attenuate; margins entire, crenate, dentate or serrate, ±flat; venation pinnate, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate; surfaces not punctate; herbaceous or leathery. All the flowers bisexual. Inflorescences terminal, axillary, cauliflorous or ramiflorous, consisting of spikes, racemes or solitary flowers. Bracts and bracteoles present. Pollination by insects or bats. Flowers sessile or stalked. Floral disc present. Perianth regular, of 2 dissimilar whorls or of 1 whorl only, rarely all whorls ±similar, imbricate or valvate in bud. Calyx segments free or fused, with (2–) 4–6 sepals or lobes; calyx cup-shaped or bell-shaped, herbaceous, papery or membranous. Corolla segments free, with 4–6 petals, alternating with the sepals or calyx lobes, cream, yellow, red or pink, without contrasting markings, membranous; claws absent; lobes ±entire. Fertile stamens 10–numerous, not clearly correlated with the sepals or calyx lobes, at least partly fused to the corolla, free of the ovary and style, grouped or fused into bundles or fused by their filaments into an open or closed tube, all ±equal. Staminodes present. Anthers basifixed, not versatile, opening by longitudinal slits, 2-celled. Ovary part-inferior or inferior. Carpels 2–4, fused; ovary with 2–4 locules. Style terminal, single and unbranched, or rarely single and branched above. Ovules (1–) 2–6 per locule, sessile; placentation axile. Fruit a fleshy, indehiscent berry; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous. Disseminule macro-surface featureless or costate; micro-surface ±smooth, green, dull. Seeds 1–6 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 0 or 2. Embryo straight or coiled.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Lecythidaceae has been published in:
Flora of Australia 8: 16.

Australian genera of Lecythidaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)


Barringtonia acutangula (flowering branch)
Photo: G.Sankowski © Zodiac Publications 

Barringtonia acutangula (flowers)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG 

Barringtonia acutangula (fruits)
Photo: G.Sankowski © Zodiac Publications 

Barringtonia asiatica (flowers)
Photo: M.Fagg © M.Fagg