1. Gentianaceae Juss.

    1. This family is accepted.


Gentianaceae, P. Taylor. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

Annual or perennial herbs
Leaves opposite, often connate at the base; stipules absent
Flowers hermaphrodite, actinomorphic or rarely zygomorphic
Calyx tubular or of separate sepals, imbricate
Corolla contorted
Stamens the same number as the corolla-lobes and alternating with them, inserted on the corolla; anthers 2-celled, opening lengthwise
Disk present or absent
Ovules often numerous Ovary superior, mostly 1-celled with 2 parietal placentas, sometimes 2-celled with the placentas adnate to the septa; style simple
Fruit usually a capsule
Seeds with copious endosperm and small embryo

Calió, M.F. (2009). Neotropical Gentianaceae.


Herbs, shrubs, rarely trees or lianas, often glabrous , autotrophic, some mycoheterotrophic ("saprophytic"). Leaves simple , opposite, rarely whorled or alternate , usually entire and sessile , with acrodromous or pinnate venation , stipules lacking, but often with an interpetiolar line or sheath , colleters often present at adaxial surface of petiole . Inflorescences terminal or axillary , usually cymes. Flowers (3-)4-5(-10)- merous ; calyx usually with colleters, lobes often fused, imbricate , carinate, winged or with dorsal glandular area; corolla sympetalous, aestivation often contorted , actinomorphic or zygomorphic ; stamens (3-)4-5(-10), epipetalous, alternipetalous; anthers with longitudinal dehiscence, rarely poricidal; ovary superior , 1(-2)-carpellate, unilocular, with parietal placentation, disc or nectariferous glands often present; style 1; stigma capitate or usually 2- lobed . Fruit mostly sypticidal capsules, rarely berries; seeds numerous.

General Description
Notes on delimitation
  • Includes Saccifoliaceae and Potaliaceae.
Number of genera
  • Forty-four genera occur in the Neotropics (complete list above).
  • 44 genera occur in the Neotropics; 35 of these are endemic.
  • Other genera are cultivated for ornamental purposes (e.g. Eustoma Salisb., Exacum L.).
  • Several species occurring in the Neotropics are narrow endemics.
Distribution in the Neotropics

Widely distributed in the Neotropics:

  • Adenolisianthus Gilg (1 sp.) Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.
  • Aripuana Struwe, Maas & V.A. Albert (1 sp.) Brazil (southeastern Amazonia).
  • Calolisianthus Gilg (c. 6 spp.) Brazil and Bolivia.
  • Celiantha Maguire (3 spp.) northern South America.
  • Chelonanthus Gilg (c. 10 spp.) Mexico, Central and South America.
  • Chorisepalum Gleason & Wodehouse (5 spp.) Venezuela to Surinam.
  • Cicendia Adans. (2 spp.) 1 sp. in South America and western North America, and 1 sp. in Mediterranean region and western Europe.
  • Coutoubea Aubl. (5 spp.) northern South America and Central America.
  • Curtia Cham. & Schltdl. (8 spp.) from Mexico to Argentina (absent in Andean region).
  • Deianira Cham. & Schltdl. (7 spp.) Brazil and Bolivia.
  • Enicostema Blume (3 spp.) 1 sp. from northern South America, Central America and the Caribbean, 2 spp. from Madagascar, tropical Africa and Asia.
  • Gentiana L. (c. 360 spp.) most spp. in Asia, but also occur in Europe, North and South America, northeast Africa and east Australia.
  • Gentianella Moench (250 spp.) South and North America, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, New Zealand.
  • Gyrandra Griseb. (5 spp.) Central America.
  • Halenia Borkh. (80 spp.) 76 spp. from Central and South America (the other from Asia and North America).
  • Helia Mart. (2 spp.) Brazil to Paraguay.
  • Hockinia Gardner (1 sp.) Brazil.
  • Irlbachia Mart. (9 spp.) Brazil, Colombia, Guianas and Venezuela.
  • Lagenanthus Gilg (1 sp.) Northern South America (Colombian-Venezuelan border).
  • Lehmaniella Gilg (2 spp.) Peru and Colombia.
  • Lisianthius P.Browne (30 spp.) Central America and Greater Antilles.
  • Macrocarpaea (Griseb.) Gilg (c. 100 spp.) Central America, Greater Antilles and South America.
  • Neblinantha Maguire (2 spp.) Northern South America (Brazilian-Venezuelan border).
  • Neurotheca Salisb. ex Benth. & Hook.f. (3 spp.) 1 sp. from northern South America, tropical Africa and western Madagascar, 2spp. from tropical Africa.
  • Potalia Aubl. (9 spp.) from Bolivia to Costa Rica.
  • Prepusa Mart. (5 spp.) southeastern Brazil.
  • Purdieanthus Gilg (1 spp.) Northern South America (Colombian-Venezuelan border).
  • Rogersonanthus Maguire & B.M.Boom (3 spp.) northern South America and the island of Trinidad.
  • Roraimaea Struwe, S.Nilsson & V.A. Albert (2 spp.) Brazil and Brazilian-Venezuelan border.
  • Saccifolium Maguire & Pires (1 sp.) Brazilian-Venezuelan border.
  • Schultesia Mart. (21 spp.) Pantropical, minus Asia.
  • Senaea Taub. (2 spp.) Southeastern Brazil.
  • Sipapoantha Maguire & B.M.Boom (1 sp.) Venezuela.
  • Symbolanthus G.Don (c. 30 spp.) Costa Rica, Panama and northern South America.
  • Symphyllophyton Gilg (1 sp.) southern Brazil.
  • Tachia Aubl. (13 spp.) Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Guianas.
  • Tapeinostemon Benth. (7 spp.) northern South America.
  • Tetrapollinia Maguire & B.M.Boom (1 sp.) Tropical South America.
  • Voyria Aubl.(19 spp.) tropical America (only one species in West Africa).
  • Voyriella
  • Miq. (1 spp.) Tropical South America and Panama.
  • Yanomamua J.R.Grant, Maas & Struwe (1 sp.) Brazil.
  • Zeltnera G.Mans. (25 spp.) North, Central and South America (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru).
  • Zygostigma Griseb. (1 sp.) Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Zonanthus Griseb. (1 sp.) Cuba.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • No stipules (sometimes with an interpetiolar line or sheath).
  • Flowers bisexual.
  • Corolla gamopetalous.
  • Stamens epipetalous, alternipetalous.
  • Ovarysuperior.
  • Ovary bicarpellate.
  • Parietal placentation.
Other important characters
  • Plants glabrous.
  • Simple, entire, opposite (rarely whorled or alternate) leaves.
  • Calyx lobes fused (rarely free).
  • Colleters at adaxial surface of petiole and on the inside of calyx.
  • Corolla aestivationcontorted (rarely imbricate or valvate).
  • Nectarydisc at base of ovary.
  • Dehiscentcapsule.
Key differences from similar families
  • Superiorovary separates it from Rubiaceae and Campanulaceae.
  • Lack of interpetiolar stipules sets it apart from Rubiaceae.
  • Contortedcorolla lobes separates it from Loganiaceae.
  • Lack of latex sets it apart from Apocynaceae.
  • Homostylous flowers separates it from Gelsemiaceae.
Useful tips for generic identification
  • Calolisianthus Gilg: herb to shrub; 5-merous flowers; calyx with glandular area on lobes; corolla blue, lilac, pink or red; stamens inserted at the base of the corolla tube, pollen in tetrads or polyads; style long, stigma bilamellate; bud apex acute.
  • Chelonanthus Gilg: herb; 5-merous flowers; calyx with glandular area on lobes; corolla green, cream, white or purple; stamens inserted at the base of the corolla tube, pollen in tetrads or polyads; style long, stigma bilamellate; budapex round or acute.
  • Chorisepalum Gleason & Wodehouse: shrubs to trees; coriaceous leaves; inflorescence with leaf-like bracts; calyx 4-merous, with glandular area on lobes; corolla 6-merous, green; stamens inserted at the base the of the corolla tube, pollen monads; style long, stigma bilamellate; winged seeds.
  • Curtia Cham. & Schltdl.: herb; leaves whorled; 5-merous flower; calyx lobes triangular; corolla white to purple; heterostylous (some spp.); pollen in monads; stigma bilobed.
  • Deianira Cham. & Schltdl.: herb; leaves along stem or in a basal rosette; 4-merous flowers; corolla white to pink; stamens inserted at the apex of the corolla tube; anthers dehiscing by a pore (which becomes a longitudinal slit later), pollen in tetrads; stigma bilobed.
  • Lisianthius  P.Browne: herbs, shrubs, small trees; interpetiolar sheath at the base of leaves; 5-merous flowers; calyx often carinate or alate with long acuminate lobes; corolla yellow to red, green or black; stamens inserted at the base of the corolla tube, filaments thickened at base and bent at the insertion point; style long, stigma capitate, peltate or slightly bilobed.
  • Macrocarpaea (Griseb.) Gilg: shrubs to small trees (rare herb); inflorescences with leaf-like bracts; 5-merous flowers; calyx with glandular area on lobes; corolla white, yellow or green; stamens inserted at middle or base of the corolla tube, pollen monads; style long, stigma bilamellate.
  • Potalia Aubl.: shrubs or trees; leaves crowded at branch apices; interpetiolar sheath; 4-merous calyx; 8-10-merous corolla, white, yellow, orange, or green; stamens inserted at the middle of the corolla tube; short filaments fused in a staminal tube, pollen monads (rarely tetrads); style short, stigma capitate; fruit berry.
  • Symbolanthus  G.Don: shrubs, rarely small trees or herbs; 5-merous flowers; calyx with glandular area on lobes; corolla white, yellow or green, pink, or red; stamens inserted at the base of the corolla tube, with a low corona or ridge at base of stamens; pollen tetrads; style long, stigma bilamellate.
  • Tachia  Aubl.: shrubs to trees; leaves petiolate; leaf venation pinnate; 5-merous flowers, inserted in leaf axils, without bracts; corolla white, yellow, green, orange; stamens inserted at the base of the corolla tube, pollen in monads; style long, stigma bilamellate.
  • Voyria  Aubl.: saprophytic herb; scale-like leaves; flowers (4-) 5 (-7)-merous; corolla white, yellow, pink, blue, purple; style long.
Important literature

Calió, M.F., Pirani, J.R. and Struwe, L. 2008. Morphology-based phylogeny and revision of Prepusa and Senaea (Gentianaceae: Heliae) - rare endemics from eastern Brazil. Kew Bull. 63 (2): 169-191.

Cordeiro, I. 1987. Gentianaceae. Flora da Serra do Cipó, Minas Gerais. Bol. Bot. Univ. de São Paulo 9: 227-242.

Cordeiro, I. 2003. Gentianaceae. Flora de Grão-Mogol, Minas Gerais. Bol. Bot. Univ. de São Paulo 22 (2): 137-140.

Cordeiro, I. 2005. Gentianaceae. In: Wanderley, M.G.L., Shepherd, G.J., Melhem, T.S. and Giulietti, A.M. (eds.). Flora Fanerogâmica do Estado de São Paulo, Vol. 4. São Paulo.

Crespo, S. R. de M. 2003. Revisão taxonômica do gênero Curtia Cham. & Schetdl. (Gentianaceae). Tese Doutorado. Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Instituto de Biologia. Campinas, SP.

Fabris, H.A. and Klein, R.M. 1971. Gentianaceae, pp 3-30. In: Reitz, P.R. (ed.). Flora ilustrada Catarinense, part 1, fascicle GENC. Itajaí, Santa Catarina.

Gentian Research Network. http://gentian.rutgers.edu/index.htm

Guimarães, E.F. 1977. Revisão taxonômica do gênero Deianira Chamisso et Schlechtendal (Gentianaceae). Arq. Jard. Bot. Rio de Janeiro 21: 46-123.

Guimarães, E.F. and Klein, V.L.G. 1985. Revisão taxonômica do gênero Coutoubea Aubl. (Gentianaceae). Rodriguésia 37: 21-45.

Maas, P.J.M. 1985. Nomenclatural notes on Neotropical Lisyantheae (Gentianaceae). Proc. Kon. Ned. Akad. Wetensch. Ser. C. 88: 405-412.

Maas, P.J.M. and Reuters, P. 1986. Voyria and Voyriella (saprophytic Gentianaceae). Flora Neotropica Mongraphs 41: 1-93.

Maguire, B. 1981. Gentianacaeae, pp 2-56. In: Maguire, B. et al. (eds.). The Botany of the Guayana Highland vol XIII. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 51.

Maguire, B. and Boom, B.M. 1989. Gentianacaeae (part 3), pp. 330-388. In: Maguire, B. et al. The Botany of the Guayana Highland vol XI. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 32.

Maguire, B. and Pires, J.M. 1978. Saccifoliaceae - a new monotypic family of the Gentianales, pp. 230-245. In: Maguire, B. et al. (eds.). The botany of the Guayana Highland, vol X. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 29.

Mansion G. 2004. A new classification of the polyphyletic genus Centaurium Hill (Chironiinae, Gentianaceae): description of the New World endemic Zeltnera, and reinstatment of Gyrandra Griseb. and Schenkia Griseb. Taxon 53 (3): 719-740.

Struwe, L. and Albert, V.A. 2002. Gentianaceae - Systematics and Natural History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 652 págs.

Struwe, L. and Albert, V.A. 1998. Lisianthius P.Br., its probable homonym Lisyanthus Aubl. (Gentianaceae) and the priority of Helia Mart. over Irlbachia Mart. as its substitute. Harvard Pap. Bot. 3: 67-71.

Struwe, L., Maas, J.P., Pihlar, O. and Albert, V.A. 1999. Gentianaceae, pp. 474-542. In: Berry, P.E., Yatskievych, K. & Holst, B.K. (eds.). Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana. Vol. 5 Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.

Struwe, L., Maas, P.J.M. and Albert, V.A. 1997. Aripuana cullmaniorum, a new genus and species of Gentianaceae from white-sands of southeastern Amazonas, Brazil. Harvard Pap. Bot. 2: 235-253.

Weaver, R.E., Jr. 1972. A revision of the neotropical genus Lisianthus (Gentianaceae). J. Arnold Arb. 53: 76-100, 234-272, 273-311.


Gentianaceae, Sileshi Nemomissa. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2002

Annual or perennial herbs, sometimes achlorophyllous & mycotrophic, or shrubs or rarely small trees, with colourless bitter iridoid compounds
Stems decumbent to erect, simple or branched
Leaves simple, opposite, seldom whorled or alternate (some Swertia spp.), scale-like in mycotrophic species (>i>Voyria, >i>Voyriella), entire; stipules 0
Flowers bisexual, regular, 3–5(–12)-merous, often heterostylous Flowers solitary or inflorescences cymose (rarely racemose), crowded into fascicles or ± globose heads, rarely verticillate (>i>Enicostema)
Calyx lobes united or ± free, persistent, with a single or more rows of colleters at the base
Corolla lobes united, persistent or deciduous, often with scales or nectary-pits within the ± elongate tube, contorted or imbricate
Stamens epipetalous, as many as and alternating with the corolla lobes; anthers with longitudinal slits, rarely with terminal pores (in >i>Exacum)
Gynoecium bicarpellate, with nectary-disk or glands, superior, 1-celled, placentae parietal, often intruding, rarely 2-celled with axile placentae or 1-loculed with free-central placenta, ovules few to ± numerous; style terminal with entire, two-lobed or papillose stigma or rarely with decurrent stigma (>i>Lomatogonium)
Fruit a septicidal capsule, rarely a berry
Seeds with small, straight embryo & copious oily endosperm or undifferentiated embryo & scanty endosperm in mycotrophic genera
Chromosome number: x = 5–13 (and multiples thereof)

Gentianaceae, J. Paiva and I. Nogueira. Flora Zambesiaca 7:4. 1990

Calyx tubular of (2)4–5, or rarely 6–12 sepals (lobes), imbricate (sometimes valvate)
Corolla gamopetalous; tube campanulate, funnel-shaped or cylindric, sometimes with a constricted limb, 3–5(12)-lobed, usually contorted or rarely imbricate, often with scales or nectary-pits within the tube
Stamens as many as the corolla lobes, alternating with them, inserted on the corolla; filaments usually dilated at the base; anthers 2-thecous, with distinct parallel cells dehiscing lengthwise, sometimes twisted, or seldom with apical pores
Disk obsolete or annular or of 5 hypogynous glands
Ovary superior, uni- or bilocular (through the intrusion of the cell walls), usually with many ovules in each cell, with parietal or, in the bilocular ovaries, axile placentation; style simple or rarely absent; stigma entire or bilobed or divided into 2 filiform branches (rarely stigmas deccurent along the sides of the ovary when style wanting)
Fruit usually capsular and dehiscent septicidally bivalved or rarely berry-like and splitting irregularly
Seeds usually numerous, subglobose, polyhedric to ovoid-ellipsoid, smooth, wrinkled, or reticulate-faveolate or sometimes frilled; testa crustaceous or membranous; embryo small, straight and elongate, embedded in the copious oily albumen
Annual or perennial herbs, sometimes suffrutescent, rarely shrubs or small trees, erect to straggling, terrestrial or aquatic, rarely parasites or saprophytes, usually glabrous
Leaves simple, opposite (in the Flora Zambesiaca area), or seldom whorled, only rarely alternate, exstipulate, sometimes reduced and scale-like
Inflorescence a terminal cyme, often paniculate, or axillary and fasciculate or, sometimes, reduced to solitary flowers
Flowers hermaphrodite or sometimes unisexual, actinomorphic or rarely zygomorphic, subsessile or pedicellate


Gentianaceae Juss. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Gen. Pl. [Jussieu] 141. 1789 [4 Aug 1789] (1789)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/boj.12385


Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.

Plants and People Africa
Common Names from Plants and People Africa http://www.plantsandpeopleafrica.com/
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