Coccochondra is a genus of several poorly known species of xerophytic shrubs from the Guayana Highlands of northeastern South America. This genus is characterized by its low habit with rather tough-textured leaves; its interpetiolar, persistent, triangular stipules; its small, axillary, cymose, bracteate inflorescences; its small funnelform corollas with the 4-5 lobes valvate in bud; its 2-locular ovary with the ovules solitary in each locule; and its drupaceous fruits with 2 pyrenes. The tissues contain raphides, and based on these characters this genus has been classified in the Psychotrieae (Taylor 1996). The genus was originally described under the name Chondrococcus Steyerm., however that name was previously published its correct name is Chondrococca. Some morphological information for of all of the species of Chondrococca was presented by Taylor et al. (2004).
Chondrococca was regarded as monotypic and poorly known until recently, when Taylor (2011) transferred several anomalous and also poorly known species to it from Psychotria. These species all have axillary inflorescences, while the neotropical species of Psychotria and Palicourea have terminal or pseudoaxillary (i.e., lateral) inflorescences. The mature fruits of these species have not been documented; those of Coccochondra laevis were presumed by Steyermark to be dry and crustaceous, and possibly tardily schizocarpous with the two segments separating, however this is based on herbarium specimens that may not be fully mature. Further study is needed to clarify the relationships of these two subgenera, to each other and within the Rubiaceae; none have yet been studied with molecular sequence data. Taylor separated the species into two subgenera, one monotypic and the other comprising the three species that were formerly classified in Psychotria. Coccochondra subg. Coccochondra includes only Coccochondra laevis; Coccochondra subg. Durifolia includes the other three species.
Steyermark described and illustrated the ovules of Coccochondra as inserted basally but anatropous and pendulous; this species is known only from a few specimens at NY and US, and ovule orientation has not been re-evaluated. This ovule description is problematic, because he classified this genus in Psychotrieae but this tribe has basal erect ovules. Steyermark also illustrated the ovules of Psychotria phelpsiana as axile and pendulous, which is also anomalous in Psychotria; however re-examination of specimens of this species shows to be inaccurate (Taylor 2011).
C.M. Taylor III 2012
Key to Subgenera of Coccochondra
1. Calyx and corolla 4-lobed; inflorescences subsessile....Subg. Coccochondra
1'. Calyx and corolla 5-lobed; inflorescences pedunculate....Subg. Durifolia