home browse overview


A pantropical family of moderate size, particularly rich in South America, the family Malpighiaceae in Australia comprises only 2 species of rainforest climbers from north-east Queensland.

Characteristic features of the family Malpighiaceae in Australia include:

  • woody climbers with opposite, simple leaves with glands at the base of the blade
  • flowers showy, in loose, terminal panicles
  • petals 5, clawed, yellow
  • stamens 10, forming a ring around the superior ovary
  • fruit splitting into 3 winged articles


Evergreen woody vines climbing by twining stems. Extra-floral nectaries on the foliage. Internal secretions not obvious. Plants with dendritic, non-glandular, unicellular hairs. Leaves opposite, petiolate. Stipules distinct and free from the petiole, green and leafy or bristle-like, persistent. Lamina simple, symmetric, lanceolate, ovate or elliptic; base rounded or cordate; margins entire, ±flat; venation pinnate, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation not reticulate; surfaces not punctate; herbaceous. Usually with all the flowers bisexual, or bisexual flowers rarely occurring together with male and female flowers on the same plant. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, consisting of racemes, panicles or cymes. Bracts and bracteoles present. Pollination by insects. Flowers stalked. Floral disc absent. Perianth regular, of 2 dissimilar whorls, imbricate in bud. Calyx segments free, with 5 sepals, herbaceous. Corolla segments free, with 5 petals, alternating with the sepals, yellow, without contrasting markings, membranous; claws present or absent; lobes ±entire. Fertile stamens 510, both opposite to and alternating with, or not clearly correlated with the sepals, free of the corolla, free of the ovary and style, distinct from each other or fused by their filaments into an open or closed tube, all ±equal. Staminodes present or absent. Anthers basifixed, not versatile, opening inwards by longitudinal slits, 2-celled. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpels 3, fused; ovary with 3 locules. Style terminal, branching from the base. Ovules 1 per locule, sessile; placentation axile. Fruit dry or fleshy; dehiscent or indehiscent; a schizocarp forming winged mericarps, or rarely a nut or a drupe; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous. Disseminule macro-surface featureless or winged; micro-surface ±smooth, brown or grey, dull. Seeds 1 or 3 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight, curved 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 Malpighiaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 24.

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

* = all species introduced


Rhyssopterys timorensis (flowers)
Photo: G.Sankowski Zodiac Publications