Peraceae Plant Family

About the Peraceae or Peraxilla Family

Peraceae is a family of flowering plants with approximately 24 genera and 300 species. Members of this family are widely distributed and can be found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, with the highest diversity in Southeast Asia. This family includes economically important fruit trees such as the mulberry (Morus spp.), Osage orange (Maclura pomifera), and figs (Ficus spp.). Many species in this family have been used for medicinal purposes by indigenous cultures and continue to be studied for their potential health benefits. The mulberry leaf has also been used in sericulture, or silk production, as food for silkworms.

Taxonomy and Classification

Peraceae is a family of flowering plants in the order Rosales, which also includes other economically important plant families such as Fabaceae and Rosaceae. The Peraceae family is further divided into six subfamilies: Artocarpoideae, Bolusanthoideae, Dorstenioideae, Ficoidae, Macluroideae, and Periodeae. The most well- genus within this family is Morus, which contains the commonly cultivated mulberry trees. Other important genera include Ficus, which contains around 755 species of figs, and Broussonetia, which includes paper mulberry trees used for making cloth and paper in Asia. Many members of the Peraceae family are characterized by their milky sap, a common trait among plants in the order Rosales.

Morphology and Characteristics

Plants within the Peraceae family can vary greatly in size, but are generally characterized by their alternate, simple leaves without stipules. The leaves may be lobed or unlobed, and have a variety of shapes ranging from ovate to elliptical. Flowers within this family are small and typically contain four or five petals and sepals. They may be arranged in inflorescences such as spikes, catkins, or heads. Many species also produce fruits that are drupes or fig- syconia, which enclose the flowers inside. Members of Peraceae are known for their latex- sap, which may be white or yellow and can cause skin irritation in some individuals. Some species in this family are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, while others have both male and female flowers on the same plant (monoecious).

Distribution and Habitat

Plants within the Peraceae family are distributed worldwide, but are most diverse in tropical and subtropical regions. The highest diversity of this family is found in Southeast Asia, where many species are endemic. Other regions with high diversity include Africa, Madagascar, and South America. Many members of this family are adapted to lowland forests and other humid habitats, although some can also be found in drier habitats such as savannas and deserts. Mulberry trees (Morus spp.) have been widely cultivated for their fruit and silk production and are now naturalized in many parts of the world. The specific environmental conditions preferred by different genera and species within this family vary widely.

Economic and Ecological Importance

The Peraceae family includes several economically important species, particularly those in the genus Morus. The mulberry tree (Morus spp.) is cultivated for its fruit, leaves, and wood. Mulberries are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments such as inflammation and diabetes. The leaves of the mulberry tree are also used as food for silkworms in sericulture. Other important members of this family include figs (Ficus spp.), which are cultivated for their edible fruit and are an important food source for wildlife, and Osage orange (Maclura pomifera), which is highly valued for its strong, durable wood. Several species within this family have also been used in traditional medicine, including Dorstenia gigas, which has been used to treat snake bites in Nigeria. Many members of this family are also ecologically important for providing habitat and food sources for wildlife and contributing to biodiversity in their native habitats.

Notable Species

Some notable species within the Peraceae family include:

  • Morus alba: Also known as the white mulberry, this tree is widely cultivated for its sweet, juicy fruits and is native to China. The leaves of the white mulberry are also used as food for silkworms in sericulture.

  • Ficus carica: The common fig is a deciduous tree that produces edible fruit known as figs. This species is widely cultivated and can be found throughout the Mediterranean region and other parts of the world.

  • Maclura pomifera: Also known as the Osage orange or hedge apple, this tree is native to North America and is highly valued for its strong, durable wood. The fruits of the Osage orange are not typically eaten by humans but are sometimes used to repel insects.

  • Broussonetia papyrifera: The paper mulberry is a deciduous tree native to Asia that is used for making cloth and paper. The bark fibers are traditionally beaten into a pulp, which is then used to make paper or woven into fabric.

  • Dorstenia gigas: This species is native to Africa and has been used in traditional medicine to treat snake bites. The plant contains compounds that have been shown to have anti- properties.

  • Ficus religiosa: Also known as the sacred fig or bodhi tree, this species is considered sacred in many cultures and is often planted near temples and shrines. It is native to India and Southeast Asia and has distinctive heart- leaves.