The family Celastraceae R. Br.

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

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Plants belonging to the Celastraceae family are trees, shrubs or woody climbers, sometimes spiny.

Their leaves are simple, usually alternate or opposite, typically glabrous and coriaceous. The leaf venation is pinnate, with reticulate secondary veins.

The flowers are actinomorphic, usually hermaphrodite; they are most often small and often greenish. They have a perianth with distinct calyx and corolla, with the stamens arising from a usually conspicuous nectar disk. The petals and sepals are free. The pollination is entomophilous.

The fruit is a capsule, berry, samara or drupe; the fruits are often colorful.

The number of chromosomes of the plants that belongs to the Celastraceae family (2n) is 8, 12 or 14.

There are about 90 genera in the family and around 1300 species. They are found mainly in the tropics and subtropics, with some species in temperate regions. The map below show the worldwide distribution of the family. In North America, one can find 16 genera that belong to the family, but only one genera is found in Québec : the Celastrus genus. There 3 species belonging to the Celastrus genus that are found in North America but only one is found in Québec: Celastrus scandens (photography at right).

The Celastraceae family belongs to the Celastrales order. Genera and species that are now in the Celastraceae family were formerly in the families : map_world.jpg can't be loaded.


The Celastrus with about 50 species, in the type genus of the Celastraceae family. As for the Celastrus genus, the name comes from the classical Greek κηλαστρα (kêlastra) or κηλαστρον (kêlastron) or κηλαστροσ (kêlastros), a word used by Theophrastus, (370 - 285 BC), the successor of Aristotle in the Peripatetic school of Athens, in his Enquiry into Plants, and, depending on the sources, a word identified as a Mediterranean evergreen tree, probably in the genus Phillyrea or as a shrub of the Rhamnus genus. And it is the genus Celastrus that gave its name to the Celastraceae family.


Some species are used as ornamentals, species belonging to the Celastrus, Euonymus, Catha, Elaeodendron, and Tripterygium genus.