Putranjivaceae Plant Family

About the Putranjivaceae or Putranjiva Family

Putranjivaceae is a family of flowering plants that consists of approximately 180 species across 10 genera. These plants are commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions, especially in Asia and Africa. The family is known for its oil- seeds, which have various uses. Some species within the family are used for medicinal purposes or as ornamentals. Many species grow in the wild and play an important role in local ecosystems.

Taxonomy and Classification

Putranjivaceae is a family of flowering plants in the order Malpighiales. The family consists of 10 genera, including Drypetes, Putranjiva, and Irenodendron. The classification of this family has undergone several revisions due to its morphological and molecular variability. However, recent studies have confirmed the monophyly of the family and its placement within Malpighiales. Putranjivaceae is closely related to Euphorbiaceae and Phyllanthaceae, and some taxonomists consider it as a subfamily of Euphorbiaceae. There are no recognized subfamilies in this family.

Morphology and Characteristics

Members of the Putranjivaceae family are generally trees or shrubs with alternate leaves that may be simple or compound. The leaves are often leathery or glossy and have a smooth margin. Flowers in this family are typically small and unisexual, with both male and female flowers occurring on the same plant. The flowers are usually greenish- or white and lack petals. They are borne in axillary clusters or racemes. The fruit is a drupe, which contains one or more seeds. Some species in this family have oil- seeds that are commercially valuable. The bark of some species is also used medicinally.

Distribution and Habitat

The Putranjivaceae family is primarily distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, especially in Asia and Africa. Some species are found in Australia, Madagascar, and the Pacific Islands. The family has a wide distribution range, occurring from sea level to 3000 meters above sea level. Many species within this family prefer well- soils in forests or grasslands, while others grow in more arid areas such as scrublands. Some members of this family are commonly cultivated as ornamentals or for their oil- seeds.

Economic and Ecological Importance

The Putranjivaceae family has both economic and ecological importance. Several species within the family have oil- seeds that are commercially valuable and used in various industries such as cosmetics, soaps, and candles. Some species are also used for medicinal purposes due to their beneficial properties. The bark of some species is used for tanning or dyeing. Many species within this family are also important components of local ecosystems, providing habitat and food sources for wildlife. They contribute to biodiversity and play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem balance.

Notable Species

Here are some notable species within the Putranjivaceae family:

  1. Drypetes sepiaria: Also known as the 'snake wood tree', this species is native to India and has a distinctive bark that resembles snake skin. The wood is used for making walking sticks and tool handles.

  2. Putranjiva roxburghii: This species is found in India, Myanmar, and Thailand. It is commonly cultivated for its oil- seeds, which are used in traditional medicine and for soap making.

  3. Drypetes pendula: This small tree is native to Australia and is known for its glossy leaves and yellow fruit. The plant is often grown as an ornamental.

  4. Drypetes natalensis: This African species is also known as 'mchelelo' and has been used traditionally to treat malaria and other ailments. The tree is also valued for its durable wood and is used for construction.

  5. Drypetes gerrardii: This Kenyan species is commonly known as the 'monkey puzzle tree' because of its tangled branches. It is found in coastal forests and provides habitat for various bird species.