Family description

Small to large trees and lianas. Twigs often zig-zagging, on cross section with clear rays radiating from the center to the bark.
Leaves simple, alternate, usually placed in a single plane (not spirally), stalks usually short and fat, leaf margin smooth. No stipules.
Flowers usually opposite the leaves or on old leafless stems, often hanging face-down, usually 3 sepals and 6 petals in two rows, the inner row often arching inwards and covering the sexual organs like a hood. Stamens minute, densely clustered in a central circular clump surrounding the stigmas.
Fruit fleshy, not splitting, usually in clusters radiating from a common woody stalk.

General info

Distribution Pan-tropical with ca. 128 genera and ca. 2300 species.
Similar to Magnoliaceae, Myristicaceae, Ebenaceae and some Lauraceae, but can be differentiated by the combination of wedge shaped rays on twig cross section (all), absence of stipules (Magnoliaceae), absence of red sap and hairs (Myristicaceae), absence of black laminar glands (Ebenaceae).
Ecology Usually understorey to sub-canopy species in closed, lowland forests.
Uses Several species are cultivated for their ornamental, often sweet fragrant flowers. An important fruit is the soursop (Annona sp), while Cananga odorata is an important ingredient in perfumes (Ylang-ylang).

Genera treated

  • Artabotrys
  • Cananga
  • Goniothalamus
  • Polyalthia
  • Uvaria


Artabotrys suaveolens

Cananga odorata

Desmos sp.

Goniothalamus ridleyi

Polyalthia rumphii

Uvaria purpurea