home browse overview


A small, pantropical family of tropical lowland rainforest trees, well known for the spices nutmeg and mace. In Australia, confined to rainforests of the north and north-east.

Characteristic features of the family Myristicaceae in Australia include:

  • small to medium trees with alternate, aromatic leaves, often distichous, lacking stipules
  • flowers unisexual, borne in or above leaf axils in 1 to many flowered racemes or panicles, with male and female flowers on the same or different plants
  • perianth tubular with 2-3(-5) valvate lobes; stamens (2-)6-40 with filaments united into a column; ovary superior
  • fruit fleshy or leathery, opening by 2 valves to disclose a large seed enveloped by a coloured aril


Evergreen trees or shrubs. Internal secretions of coloured sap. Plants glabrous, or with dendritic, non-glandular, uniseriate hairs. Leaves alternate and spiral, or distichous, petiolate. Stipules absent. Lamina simple, symmetric, lanceolate, ovate or elliptic; base cuneate or rounded; margins entire, ±flat; venation pinnate with the midrib conspicuous and the tertiary venation reticulate; surfaces not punctate; leathery. Male and female flowers occurring on separate plants. Inflorescences axillary, cauliflorous or ramiflorous, consisting of panicles, cymes or solitary flowers. Bracts and bracteoles present. Flowers stalked. Perianth regular, of 1 whorl only, with 2–5 fused sepaloid segments, valvate in bud, urn-shaped or tubular, green, herbaceous. Fertile stamens 8–numerous, not clearly correlated with and free of the perianth segments, free of the ovary and style, fused by their anthers, all ±equal. Staminal filaments fused into a short column. Anthers basifixed, not versatile, opening outwards by short slits or by longitudinal slits, ?1- or ?2-celled. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpel 1, incompletely closed; ovary with 1 locule. Style terminal, single and unbranched. Ovule 1, stalked; placentation basal. Fruit a fleshy or leathery dehiscent capsule; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous. Disseminule micro-surface ±smooth, orange, red or brown, dull. Seeds 1 per fruit. Aril present. Cotyledons 2. Embryo round or shapeless.
(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 Myristicaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 2.

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


Myristica insipida (fruit and seed showing aril)
Photo: J.Wrigley © ANBG 

Myristica insipida (fruit)
Photo: D.Jones © D.Jones 

Myristica insipida (fruits)
Photo: J.Wrigley © ANBG 

Myristica muelleri (fruits)
Photo: G.Sankowski © Zodiac Publications