The family Araliaceae Jussieu
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
The Araliaceae family
of flowering plants is also known as the Aralia family
(after its type genus Aralia)
or as the Ivy family. The well know Ginseng
(Panax quinquefolius, photograph to the right) is a member of the family.
The family includes about 70 genera and
between 700 and 900 species of mostly
tropical trees, lianas,
and perennial herbaceous.
Botanists usually split the family in two
Species usually bear pinnately or
palmately compound leaves;
the leaves are usually
The plants usually have stipules
that are liguliform or
adnate to the
The plants usually have small flowers produced in large
The flowers are actinomorphic
and most frequently unisexual.
calyx is reduced to usually 5 minute teeth or a seam like rim adnate to the
The corolla consists mostly of 5 to 10
usually more or less distinct petals, arising from a
nectary disk on the summit of the ovary.
The stamens are distinct,
usually as many as and alternating with the petals.
The fruit is a berry or
that sometimes splits into one-seeded segments.
There are often prickly or stellate hairs on the vegetative parts.
The Araliaceae family is closely related to the Apiaceae
and Pittosporaceae families,
owing to numerous common traits, notably those involving their general
appearance and inflorescence structure.
These morphological similarities result from the common evolutionary steps that
these families underwent in the past.
The boundaries between these families are still uncertain, so that
the actual number of genera and species of the family might change in the
future. Furthermore, the generic level classification of the Araliaceae
family has been unstable, generic limits are controversial.
The family is essentially centered in Southeast Asia and tropical America.
China has 23 genera (two endemic, one
and 180 species (82 endemic, seven introduced).
Many of the species of Araliaceae are cultivated for their leaves,
Hedera helix, or English Ivy and the houseplants of the Aralia
genera, or for the medicinal quality of their roots, the Panax genus.
Aralia is the latinization of an old French-Canadian name aralie
which probably came from the Iroquois Indian language.
Aralia was coined by Tournefort in 1700, from, a plant send to him by Sarrazin.
Michel Sarrazin, surgeon, doctor, and naturalist, (1659 - 1734)
came to New France in 1685, as a surgeon in the Marine.
While there he also pursed his interests in botany, went into the Iroquois
country and wrote his Histoire des plantes du Canada
(History of the plants from Canada).
He had a better understanding of plant species than Linnaeus did.
Sarrazin had dispatched a specimen of Panax quinquefolius that he
identified as a Ginseng variety,
under the name of Aralia humilis fructu majore. Aralia became
then the type genus of the Araliaceae family, giving it its name.
Sarrazin also discovered the Sarracenia purpurea, and the
Sarracenia name was given to the genus by Tournefort, in honor of
Economically, the most important species is Panax quinquefolius, the
Ginseng, an extract of which is supposed to be an aphrodisiac
as well as being a general stimulant. This perception has led to the
devastation of many populations of the species in eastern North America.
Other genera of interest include species of Aralia and Oplopanax,
both of which have been found to have medicinally beneficial compounds.
Aralia and Hedera are the most commonly grown ornamentals.
The Araliaceae of Québec
In Québec one find 2 genera and 5 species of the Araliaceae family:
- The Aralia
genus with the three species:
- The Hydrocotyle
genus with the single species:
a species that used to be in the
- The Panax
genus with the two species: