Ebenaceae Gürcke
Engler & Prantl, Nat.Pflanzenfam. IV(1):153 (1891)

Name Status: Current
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Scientific Description
Leslie Watson, Thursday 8 September 2016

Common name. Ebony Family.

Habit and leaf form. Trees, or shrubs (or rarely ‘subshrubs’). Mesophytic. Leaves alternate (usually), or opposite, or whorled; usually spiral; leathery; petiolate; non-sheathing; simple. Leaf blades entire; pinnately veined; cross-venulate. Leaves without stipules. Stem anatomy. Nodes unilacunar, or tri-lacunar. Secondary thickening developing from a conventional cambial ring.

Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite (rarely), or functionally male, or functionally female. Unisexual flowers present, or absent (rarely). Plants dioecious (mostly), or hermaphrodite (rarely). Female flowers with staminodes to without staminodes. Male flowers with pistillodes.

Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers solitary (especially when female), or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in cymes. The terminal inflorescence unit cymose. Inflorescences axillary; small cymes. Flowers bracteolate; small; regular; (2–)3–5(–7) merous; cyclic; tetracyclic, or pentacyclic. Free hypanthium absent. Perianth with distinct calyx and corolla; 6–14; 2 -whorled; isomerous. Calyx 3–7; 1 -whorled; gamosepalous; blunt-lobed; imbricate, or valvate; regular; persistent; often accrescent (around the fruit), or non-accrescent. Corolla 3–7; 1 -whorled; gamopetalous; lobes contorted; tubular, or campanulate, or urceolate, or vase-shaped; regular; white, or yellow (or cream), or pink. Fertile stamens present, or absent (in female flowers). Androecium 3–28 (or more?). Androecial members branched, or unbranched; free of the perianth, or adnate (epipetalous at the base of the tube), or free of the perianth and adnate; free of one another, or coherent (often paired, by branching); 1 -whorled, or 2 -whorled, or 3 -whorled, or 4 -whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens, or including staminodes. Stamens 3–28 (or more?); reduced in number relative to the adjacent perianth to isomerous with the perianth (rarely), or diplostemonous to polystemonous (one to four times the number of C lobes); oppositisepalous. Anthers dehiscing via pores (apical), or dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; tetrasporangiate. Fertile gynoecium present, or absent (in male flowers). Gynoecium 2–5(–16) carpelled. The pistil 2–16 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; synovarious; superior (Lissocarpa being referred to a separate family). Ovary plurilocular; 2–5(–16) locular (each locule partially divided by a false septum). Locules partially secondarily divided by ‘false septa’. Styles 2–5(–8); free, or partially joined; apical. Stigmas 2–8; 1–2 - lobed; dry type; non-papillate; Group II type. Placentation apical. Ovules 2 per locule (the false septa separating the members of each pair); pendulous; apotropous; with dorsal raphe; non-arillate; anatropous.

Fruit and seed features. Fruit fleshy (usually), or non-fleshy (occasionally leathery); indehiscent (usually), or dehiscent (rarely tardily so); a berry, or a drupe, or a capsule (rarely). Capsules valvular. Seeds endospermic. Endosperm ruminate, or not ruminate; oily. Seeds large. Cotyledons 2. Embryo achlorophyllous (1/3); straight, or curved. Seedling. Germination phanerocotylar, or cryptocotylar.

Physiology, biochemistry. Aluminium accumulation not found. Photosynthetic pathway: C3, or CAM.

Geography, cytology, number of species. World distribution: pantropical, especially Indomalayan, with a few temperate outliers. X = 15. 500 species.

Economic uses, etc. Important sources of timber (ebony) and fruits (mabolo, persimmon).