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Project Name Data (Last Modified On 5/29/2013)
 

Flora Data (Last Modified On 5/29/2013)
Family HIPPOCASTANACEAE
Contributor W. G. D'Arcy
Description Trees or shrubs, the twigs terete or elliptical and grooved. Leaves opposite and digitately compound (rarely alternate and pinnate in seedlings and turoins), deciduous or persistent, the buds mostly large, often resinous and with bud scales; leaflets 3-11, membranaceous or coriaceous, pinnately veined, the mar- gins entire or variously toothed or sinuate, estipulate. Inflorescence a terminal racemose or cymose panicle, the upper flowers mostly staminate with a stipitate, reduced ovary, the perfect flowers below, bracts resembling foliage leaves or much reduced, bracteoles usually present at the base of the articulated pedicel and subtending the point of articulation. Flowers showy, white, red or rarely yellow, the axis oblique to the plane of the inflorescence; sepals 5, equal or un- like, fused for more than half their length or essentially free, quincuncial in bud, caducous; petals 4-5 alternating with the sepals, free, unequal, often with a claw; disc extrastaminal, annular or mostly irregular in shape; stamens 5-8 in 2 whorls, the outer opposite the sepals and partly aborted, the filaments elongate and ar- cuate, the anthers exserted, the two parallel locules introrse; the fertile ovary superior, often sessile, 3-carpellate, (2-)3(-4)-locular with 2 axile, amphitropous ovules in each locule, the upper ascending and apotropous, the lower descending and epitropous, an aril present at early stages, the styles united and the stigma entire or obscurely 3-lobed. Fruit a leathery, mostly 3-valvate, locucidally de- hiscent capsule, sometimes spiny; seed large, globose or somewhat flattened, smooth, shiny, black, nut-like, the embryo large and the cotyledons unequal, endosperm wanting.
Habit Trees or shrubs
Note Hippocastanaceae nom. cons. include 2 genera, Aesculus with about 13 spe- cies of the North Temperate zone, and Billia with 2 species of tropical America. The Hippocastanaceae differs little from the Sapindaceae and may not warrant separate family status. The opposite, digitate leaves, the usually irregular disc, the incomplete outer whorl of stamens and the presence of perfect flowers are the principal features of the Hippocastanaceae which differ from the Sapindaceae. The two families appear to be linked by the genera Ungnadia of Mexico and Bretschneidera of China which display similarities to both families. Hardin, who revised the American species, believed that the group has a southern origin and that in the Hippocastanaceae Billia is more primitive than the larger northern genus Aesculus. The family is of slight economic importance, a number of species being cul- tivated as ornamentals. There are reports of the fruits (or seeds) of some species being poisonous to livestock. Most parts of the plants and honey made from the nectar of some species are reported to contain a poisonous glucoside.
Reference Hardin, J. W. A revision of the American Hippocastanaceac. Brittonia 9: 145-171; 173-195. 1957.
 
 
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