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This small, tropical family has a single genus (Symplocos) distributed from India through south-east Asia and the islands of the Pacific to Central and South America. In Australia, several species are found in lowland rainforests from the Top End of the Northern Territory and along the east coast from Cape York to eastern Victoria.

Characteristic features of the family Symplocaceae in Australia include:

  • small trees or large shrubs with simple, alternate leaves
  • flowers small, regular, in terminal or axillary spikes, racemes or panicles, each flower subtended by a bract and two bracteoles
  • calyx 3–5-lobed, fused into a short tube which may split in 2, giving the appearance of a bilobed calyx; petals usually 5, fused at the very base only
  • stamens 4 to many, if many then fused at the base into bundles
  • ovary inferior with a single, capitate style, developing into a drupe crowned by the persistent calyx lobes


Evergreen trees or shrubs. Internal secretions not obvious. Plants glabrous, or with simple, non-glandular, unicellular or uniseriate hairs. Leaves alternate and spiral, petiolate. Stipules absent. Lamina simple, symmetric, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic, oblanceolate, obovate or oblong; base cuneate or attenuate; margins entire, crenate, dentate or serrate, ±flat, revolute or recurved; veins pinnate, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate; surfaces not punctate; leathery or herbaceous. Usually with all the flowers bisexual, or rarely with bisexual and male and female flowers occurring together, or with male and female flowers occurring on separate plants, or with bisexual flowers and male flowers occurring on some plants and bisexual and female flowers occurring on other plants. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, consisting of panicles or spike-like or raceme-like cymes. Bracts and bracteoles present. Flowers sessile or stalked. Floral disc present or absent; nectaries absent, or present on the disc. Free hypanthium ±present. Perianth regular, of 2 dissimilar whorls, imbricate in bud. Calyx segments fused, with 5 lobes; calyx cup-shaped, herbaceous or papery. Corolla segments fused, with 5 lobes, alternating with the calyx lobes; corolla wheel-shaped, cup-shaped or bell-shaped, white, magenta, purple or green, without contrasting markings, membranous or papery; claws absent; lobes ±entire or ciliate or fimbriate. Fertile stamens 10–numerous, both opposite to and alternating with, or not clearly correlated with the 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 a short open or closed column, all ±equal. Staminodes present or absent. Anthers dorsifixed or basifixed, not versatile, opening sideways by longitudinal slits, 2-celled. Ovary part-inferior or inferior. Carpels 2–5, fused; ovary with 2–5 locules. Style terminal, single and unbranched and the stigma truncate, capitate or peltate. Ovules 2–4 per locule, stalked; placentation parietal or apparently axile. Fruit a fleshy, indehiscent drupe; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous, dry and persistent, or growing larger. Disseminule micro-surface ±smooth, red, pink, magenta, purple, violet, blue or black, glossy. Seeds 1–5 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight or curved.
(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 Symplocaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 10.

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


Symplocos baeuerlenii (fruits)
Photo: G.Leiper © G.Leiper 

Symplocos stawellii (flowers)
Photo: G.Leiper © G.Leiper 

Symplocos stawellii (fruits)
Photo: G.Leiper © G.Leiper