Euphorbiaceae

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Spurge family
Parts of the Candlenut tree (Aleurites moluccana)
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
(unranked):Rosids
Order:Malpighiales
Family:Euphorbiaceae
Juss.
Subfamilies

For a detailed taxonomy to the genus level, see
Taxonomy of the Euphorbiaceae.

 
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Spurge family
Parts of the Candlenut tree (Aleurites moluccana)
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
(unranked):Rosids
Order:Malpighiales
Family:Euphorbiaceae
Juss.
Subfamilies

For a detailed taxonomy to the genus level, see
Taxonomy of the Euphorbiaceae.

Euphorbiaceae, the Spurge family are a large family of flowering plants with 300 genera and around 7,500 species. Most are herbs, but some, especially in the tropics, are also shrubs or trees. Some are succulent and resemble cacti.

This family occurs mainly in the tropics, with the majority of the species in the Indo-Malayan region and tropical America a good second. There is a large variety in tropical Africa, but it is not as abundant or varied as in these two other tropical regions. However, Euphorbia also has many species in non-tropical areas such as the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East, South Africa, and southern USA.

The leaves are alternate, seldom opposite, with stipules. They are mainly simple, but where compound, are always palmate, never pinnate. Stipules may be reduced to hairs, glands, or spines, or in succulent species are sometimes absent.

The radially symmetrical flowers are unisexual, with the male and the female flowers usually occurring on the same plant. As can be expected from such a large family, there is a wide variety in the structure of the flowers. They can be monoecious or dioecious. The stamens (the male organs) can number from 1 to 10 (or even more). The female flowers are hypogynous, that is, with a superior ovary.

Cyathia of a Euphorbia

The genera in tribe Euphorbieae, subtribe Euphorbiinae (Euphorbia and close relatives) show a highly specialized form of pseudanthium ("false flower" made up of several true flowers) called a cyathium. This is usually a small cup-like involucre consisting of fused together bracts and peripheral nectary glands, surrounding a ring of male flowers, each a single stamen. In the middle of the cyathium stands a female flower: a single pistil with branched stigmas. This whole arrangement resembles a single flower.

The fruit is usually a schizocarp, sometimes a drupe. A typical schizocarp is the regma, a capsular fruit with three or more cells, each of which splits open at maturity into separate parts and then breaks away explosively, scattering the small seeds.

The family contains a large variety of phytotoxins (toxic substances produced by plants), mainly diterpene esters, alkaloids, glycosides, and ricin-type toxins.

A milky sap or latex is a characteristic of the subfamilies Euphorbioideae and Crotonoideae. This milky sap is poisonous in the Euphorbioideae, but innocuous in the Crotonoideae[citation needed]. White mangrove (Excoecaria agallocha), or Blind-Your-Eye Mangrove sap causes blistering on contact and temporary blindness if it contacts the eyes. Other common names are Milky Mangrove, Buta Buta (Malay), Gewa (Bangladesh). The sap of spurge was used as a laxative.

Recent molecular studies have shown that the enigmatic family Rafflesiaceae, which was only recently recognized to belong to order Malpighiales, is derived from within Euphorbiaceae (Davis et al. 2007).

Contents

Uses

A number of plants of the Spurge family are of considerable economic importance. Prominent plants include Cassava (Manihot esculenta), Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis), Barbados nut (Jatropha curcas), and the Para rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Many are grown as ornamental plants, such as Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum) are invasive weeds in North America. In medicine, some species of Euphorbiaceae proved effective against genital herpes (HSV-2).[1]

Vulnerability

Some species, despite their medicinal benefits, are facing the risk of becoming extinct. These species include the Euphorbia species E. appariciana, E. attastoma, E. crossadenia and E. gymnoclada.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ LA Betancur-Galvis; GE Morales; JE Forero & J Roldan (2002), "Cytotoxic and Antiviral Activities of Colombian Medicinal Plant Extracts of the Euphorbia genus", Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Vol. 97, No. 4, 2002, pp. 541-546. Retrieved through Bioline International (keywords: herpes simplex - Bioline Code: oc02103)
  2. ^ Names.cria.org.br