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Family: Euphorbiaceae (Poinsettia and Cassava family)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Malpighiales

There are 218 genera and about 5735 species in the Euphorbiaceae worldwide, of which 49 genera and 527 species are native to southern Africa, six genera and 25 species are naturalised, and a further 14 genera and 43 species are cultivated in the region.

Genera native to southern Africa

Based on Archer (2000) and Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).

Acalypha

About 430 species, worldwide distribution in warm regions, with 29 species native to southern Africa and an additional five species that are cultivated in the region.

Adenocline

Three species, all native to southern Africa, extending as far north as Malawi.

 

Alchornea

About 50 species, native to the tropics, with three species native to southern Africa and an additional species that is cultivated in the region.

Androstachys

One species: Androstachys johnsonii, native to south-eastern tropical Africa, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Argomuellera

Ten species globally, of which one Argomuellea macrophylla is native to southern Africa (Zimbabwe and Mozambique).

Caperonia

About 40 species, native to tropical and subtropical regions (mainly America), with two species native to southern Africa.

Cavacoa

Three species, all African, with one, Cavacoa aurea, native to southern Africa.

 

Cephalocroton

Five species, native to Africa, Socotra, Madagascar, Comoro Islands and Sri Lanka. One species, Cephalocroton mollis, is native to southern Africa.

 

Chrozophora

Ten species, native to Europe, East Africa and Asia, with one species, Chrozophora plicata, native to southern Africa (Limpopo Province).

Clutia

Seventy-five species, all African except for two Arabian species. Thirty-eight species native to southern Africa.

Croton

At least 800 species, pantropical (mainly American), with 15 species native to southern Africa, one species naturalised and a further two species that are cultivated in the region.

Dalechampia

About 115 species, widely distributed in warm regions of the world, with three species native to southern Africa.

 

Drypetes

About 200 species distributed in the tropics and Eastern Asia, with five species native to southern Africa (Zimbabwe and Mozambique).

Erythrococca

About 50 species, native mainly to Africa, with six species native to southern Africa.

Euphorbia

A huge genus of at least 1600 species, occurring worldwide. A total of 280 species are native to southern Africa, mainly succulents in arid regions. In addition, there are 11 species naturalised and a further 16 are cultivated in the region.

Excoecaria

About 40 species, native from Africa through to Asia and Australia, with three species native to southern Africa.

Jatropha

About 156 species, native to the tropics and subtropics worldwide, with 24 species native to southern Africa, three species naturalised, and a further species that is cultivated in the region.

Leidesia

One species, Leidesia procumbens, widespread in southern Africa.

 

Macaranga

About 300 species, native mainly to the Old World tropics. Two species in southern Africa, Macaranga capensis (Wild poplar) and Macaranga mellifera, native to the east coast forests.

Mallotus

About 140 species worldwide, occurring in the Old World tropics. One species native to southern Africa: Mallotus oppositifolius, recorded from Zimbabwe. See Flora of Zimbabwe.

 

Maprounea

Four species, native to Africa and South America, with one species, Maprounea africana, occurring in southern Africa.

Micrococca

Twelve species, native to tropical Africa, Madagascar and Asia, with three species native to southern Africa.

Mildbraedia

Two species. distributed in tropical Africa, of which one Mildbraedia carpinifolia is native to southern Africa (Mozambique).

Monadenium

About 50 species, native to Africa, with four species native to southern Africa. In addition, Monadenium coccineum, native to Tanzania, is cultivated in the region.

Necepsia

Three species, native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. One species, Necepsia castaneifolia, occurs in southern Africa (recorded from Zimbabwe).

 

Neoboutonia

Three species, distributed in tropical Africa, of which one Neoboutonia macrocalyx is native to southern Africa (Zimbabwe and Mozambique).

Plukenetia

About 15 species, found mainly in the neotropics, with one Plukenetia africana [= Pterococcus africana], occurring in southern Africa.

 

Schinziophyton

One species, the Manketti tree Schinziophyton rautanenii, native to Africa, including southern Africa.

Sclerocroton

Six species, native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. One species in southern Africa - Sclerocroton integerrimus [= Sclerocroton integerrimum].

 

Seidelia

Three species, endemic to southern Africa.

 

Shirakiopsis

Six species, native from Africa through to the Pacific. One species native to southern Africa - Shirakiopsis elliptica [= Sapium ellipticum].

Spirostachys

Two species, native to subtropical East Africa and southern Africa, with one species, Spirostachys africana (Tamboti) occurring in southern Africa.

Suregada

About 40 species, native to the Old World tropics, with three species native to southern Africa (eastern parts). 

 

Synadenium

Nineteen species, native to Africa, with four species native to southern Africa. In addition, Synadenium grantii, native to tropical Africa, is cultivated in the region.

Tannodia

[= Neoholstia]

Nine species, native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. One species native to southern Africa: Tannodia swynnertonii (Zimbabwe and Mozambique).

 

Tragia

About 125 species, found in warm regions of the world, with 26 species native to southern Africa.

Tragiella

Four species, native to Africa, with one species, Tragiella natalensis native to southern Africa (eastern parts).

 

Uapaca

Sixty one species worldwide, of which four are native to southern Africa.

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

Based on Archer (2000) and Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).

Aleurites (Candlenut, Tungnut genus)

The two species are native to tropical Asia and Oceania. The Candle-nut Tree Aleurites moluccana is cultivated in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal and occurs as an escape. The Tungnut tree Aleurites fordii is the source of tung oil, which is a drying oil that is included in paints and varnishes. I know of no record of it being cultivated in southern Africa, but it is possible.

 

Homalanthus

About 35 species, native to the Indo-Pacific region. The Bleeding-heart Tree Homalanthus populifolius, is cultivated in the Cape Peninsula and occurs there as an escape. 

Manihot

About 100 species, native to America. Cassava Manihot esculenta and three other species are cultivated in tropical areas of southern Africa and often occur as escapees. An additional species is cultivated in the region.

Mercurialis

Eight species, native to Eurasia. Mercurialis annua (Annual mercury) introduced to southern Africa from Europe and found in waste places and gardens.

 

Ricinus

One species, the Castor oil plant Ricinus communis, native to NE Africa. Cultivated in the warmer parts of southern Africa, especially Limpopo Province and often found as an escape.

Vernicia

Three species, native to east and southeastern Asia. Two species are cultivated in southern Africa and occur as escapees.

 

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). Almost all of these genera are represented by only one species in southern Africa and hence the species name is listed rather than the genus name.

Alchornea ilicifolia

Native to eastern Australia.

 

Aleurites moluccana (Candle-nut tree)

Native to tropical east Asia.

 

Baloghia inophylla

Native to eastern Australia.

 

Codiaeum variegatum

Native to SE Asia and Polynesia.

 

Daphniphyllum

Two species cultivated in southern Africa - Daphniphyllum glaucescens, native to Malaysia and Indonesia, and Daphniphyllum (Yuzuri-ha), native to Japan, Korea and China.

 

Fahrenheitia zeylanica

 

Hevea brasiliensis (Pará rubber, Rubber tree)

Native to Brazil and Colombia. Sap (latex) is collected and is the main source of natural rubber. About 42% of rubber production is natural rubber from Rubber trees. These trees grow best in areas with high rainfall and warm temperatures. The main growing area for these trees is SE Asia. Synthetic rubber is derived from petroleum and has different properties to natural rubber.

 

Homalanthus populifolius (Bleeding-heart tree)

Native to eastern Australia.

 

Hura crepitans

Native from Costa Rica to Bolivia in South America.

 

Mallotus paniculatus

Native from China to Australia.

 

Paracroton pendulus

Native to Indian and Sri Lanka.

 

Pedilanthus tithymaloides (Bird cactus)

Native to South America and the West Indies.

 

Putranjiva roxburghii (Tsuge-modoki)

Native from India to Burma.

 

Reutealis trisperma

Native to the Philippines

 

Publications

  • Archer, R.H. 2000. Euphorbiaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 249-262. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

Text by Hamish Robertson


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