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  • Velloziaceae J.Agardh

This family is accepted.


Mello-Silva, R. (2009). Neotropical Velloziaceae.


Herbs and shrubs, from few centimetres (Velloziaabietina Mart., V. minima Pohl) to more than 6 meters (V. gigantea N.L.Menezes & Mello-Silva), normally from 30 cm to 2 m tall; stems sparsely branched, c. 1-2 cm diameter, covered by persistent leaf sheaths and adventitious roots and, frequently, also by old marcescent leaves so that they can reach 50 cm diam. Leaves tristichous or spirotristichous, from few centimetres to almost 1 m long, located at the branch apices; leaf sheaths developed; leaf blades deciduous by abscission line at the top of the sheath , or marcescent and reflexed with age. Inflorescences terminal , fasciculate , with one to some flowers (to 12 in Barbaceniapolyantha Goeth. & Henrard and to 15 in Velloziatubiflora Kunth); flowers often large and showy, actinomorphic , monoclinous, rarely diclinous (Barbaceniopsis L.B.Sm.); hypanthium normally longer than ovary , frequently elongated into a tube, smooth or with glandular or non- glandular emergences; tepals six, mostly violet, pink or sometimes white or, very rarely, yellow in Vellozia, red, orange, yellow, white, green or violet in Barbacenia Vand. or violet, white or yellow in Barbaceniopsis; corona present (Barbacenia); stamens 6 (Barbacenia and Barbaceniopsis) or 6-76 (Vellozia); filaments free (Vellozia and very few Barbacenia) or anthers attached to the corona (most Barbacenia) or to the hypanthium (some Barbacenia, Barbaceniopsis); lacerate staminal appendages often present in Vellozia; pollen in monads (Barbacenia, Barbaceniopsis, Velloziaplicata Mart.), in tetrads (Vellozia) or in polyads (V.andina Ibisch, R.Vásquez & Nowicke); ovary inferior, usually longer than broad, rarely hemispheric, tricarpelar, trilocular, placentation axile , septal nectaries conspicuous; stigmas peltate -trilobed (Vellozia); capitate , clavate , linear or subapical (Barbacenia), or subulate (Barbaceniopsis); capsules loculicidal, poricidal or costulate; seeds small, numerous.

General Description
Notes on delimitation
  • There are no problems of delimitation with the Neotropical Velloziaceae but, recently, a genus from China, Acanthochlamys P.C.Kao, has been included in the family, broadening its delimitation and distribution.
Number of genera
  • Barbacenia (c. 100 species)
  • Barbaceniopsis (4 species)
  • Vellozia (c. 100 species)
General notes
  • There are five other genera commonly cited among the Neotropical Velloziaceae. Aylthonia N.L.Menezes, Burlemarxia N.L.Menezes & J.Semir and Pleurostima Raf., dismembered from Barbacenia, are not monophyletic and not accepted. Nanuza L.B.Sm. & Ayensu is sister to Vellozia s.s. and has been merged into it. Xerophyta Juss. is endemic to Africa.
  • All genera are endemic.
Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Barbacenia: Brazil (mainly Central/Eastern), Venezuela.
  • Barbaceniopsis: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru.
  • Vellozia: Bolivia, Brazil (mainly Central/Eastern), Colombia, Guyana, Venezuela, Panama.
Other important characters
  • Hypanthium with glandular or non glandular emergences.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Slender stem covered by adventitiousroots and either persistent leaf sheaths or entiremarcescent leaves.
  • Inferior ovary.
  • Showy flowers.
Key differences from similar families
  • The Velloziaceae are quite distinct from every other family.
  • The stem could resemble that of some Agavaceae, Dracaenaceae or Pandanaceae, but in those families it is not covered by adventitiousroots along with either persistent leaf sheaths or entiremarcescent leaves.
  • Some Bromeliaceae and few Cyperaceae could present a stem like that of the Velloziaceae, but those families, as well as the Agavaceae, Dracaenaceae and Pandanaceae, have conspicuous inflorescences.
Notable genera and distinguishing features
  • Barbacenia: abscission line between sheath and lamina absent; flowers monoclinous; tepals mostly yellow, orange, red or greenish, rarely violet, corona present; stamens six; style longer than stigmas, stigmas vertical, fused at apex or free; pollen in monads.
  • Barbaceniopsis: abscission line between sheath and lamina absent; flowers diclinous; tepals white, yellow or violet, corona absent; stamens six; style shorter than stigmas, stigmas vertical, fused at apex; pollen in monads.
  • Vellozia: abscission line between sheath and lamina present or absent; flowers monoclinous; tepals almost always violet, sometimes white, very rarely yellow, corona absent; stamens sometimes six, rarely nine or 12, almost always more than 12; style longer than stigmas, stigmas horizontal, fused at center; pollen in monads (one species), in tetrads or in polyads (one species).
Useful tips for generic identification

Key to genera of Neotropical Velloziaceae

1. Flowers diclinous, style shorter than stigmas ... Barbaceniopsis
1. Flowers monoclinous, style longer than stigmas ...2

2. Corona present; stamens 6; stigmas vertical, fused at apex or free, lateral... Barbacenia
2. Corona absent; stamens 6-76; stigmas horizontal, fused at center ... Vellozia

Important literature

Behnke, H.-D., Treutlein, J., Wink, M., Kramer, K., Schneider, C. & Kao, P.C. 2000. Systematics and evolution of Velloziaceae, with special reference to sieve-element plastids and rbcL sequence data. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 134: 93-129.

Henrard, J.T. 1937. Velloziaceae americanae nonnulae novae vel minus cognitae. Blumea 2: 339-384.

Ibisch, P.L., Nowick, C., Vásquez, R. & Koch, K. 2001. Taxonomy and biology of Andean Velloziaceae: Vellozia andina sp. nov. and notes on Barbaceniopsis (including Barbaceniopsis castillonii comb. nov.). Systematic Botany 26(1): 5-16.

Kubitzki, K. 1998. Velloziaceae. In: Kubitzki, K. (ed), The families and genera of vascular plants. Flowering plants, Monocotyledons, Lilianae (except Orchidaceae). Vol. 3, pp. 459-467. Springer Verlag. Berlin.

Mello-Silva, R. 1991. The infra-familial taxonomic circumscription of the Velloziaceae: A historical and critical analysis. Taxon 40: 45-51.

Mello-Silva, R. 2004. Velloziaceae. In Smith, N., S.A. Mori, A. Henderson, D.W. Stevenson & S.V. Heald (eds.), Flowering plants of the neotropics. Pp. 490-491. Princeton University Press. Princeton.

Mello-Silva, R. 2005. Morphological analysis, phylogenies and classification in Velloziaceae. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 148(2): 157-173.

Menezes, N.L. 1971. New taxa and new combination in Velloziaceae. Ciência e Cultura 23(3): 421-422.

Menezes, N.L. 1980. Re-establishment of genus Pleurostima Rafinesque (Velloziaceae). Revista Brasileira de Botânica 3: 37-47.

Menezes, N.L., Mello-Silva, R. & Mayo, S.J. 1994. A cladistic analysis of the Velloziaceae. Kew Bulletim 49(1): 71-92.

Menezes, N.L. & Semir, J. 1991. Burlemarxia, a new genus of Velloziaceae. Taxon 40: 413-426.

Salatino, A., Salatino, M.L.F., Mello-Silva, R., Sluys, M.-A., Giannasi, D.E. & Price R.A. 2001. Phylogenetic inference in Velloziaceae using chloroplast trnL-F sequences. Systematic Botany 26(1): 92-103.

Smith, L. B. 1962. A synopsis of the American Velloziaceae. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 35(4): 251-292, pl. 1-12.

Smith, L.B. & Ayensu, E.S. 1976. A revision of American Velloziaceae. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 30: i-viii, 1-172.


Velloziaceae, F.N. Hepper. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3:1. 1968

Stems woody and fibrous, dichotomously branched, covered with the persistent bases of the fallen leaves; habit arborescent or shrubby
Leaves crowded in a tuft at the ends of the branches, narrow, often pungent-pointed
Flowers solitary on each peduncle, white, yellow, or blue, sometimes very handsome, actinomorphic, bisexual
Perianth-tube very short or absent; segments equal, spreading
Stamens 6, or numerous and in 6 bundles of 2-6; anthers linear, basifixed, opening by longitudinal slits
Ovules very numerous on axile, stalked placentas Ovary inferior, 3-locular; style slender, with a capitate stigma or 3 short arms
Fruit a dry or hard capsule, often flat or concave on the top, crowned with the scar of the perianth, or 6-toothed, sometimes spiny, loculicidally dehiscent
Seeds numerous, embryo small in copious, rather hard endosperm


Velloziaceae, Lyman B. Smith And Edward S. Ayensu. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1975

Perennial herbs or shrubs; indument highly diverse, often not strictly epidermal;  stems mostly elongate and branched, covered with persistent leaf-sheaths, fibrous
Leaves (young, complete) in a fascicle at the end of the stem or of each branch; sheaths densely imbricate, cylindric with a V-shaped sinus opposite the blade; blades narrow and grass-like, persistent and gradually decomposing with age or deciduous by a symmetrical transverse line
Peduncles at the end of the stem or of each branch, 1-flowered
Flowers perfect or rarely functionally unisexual (Barbaceniopsis)
Perianth-tube equalling to greatly exceeding the ovary and adnate to it; tepals 6 in 2 series but usually almost identical
Stamens 6 or numerous >i>(Vellozia in part); filaments terete and slender or variously flattened and forming a corona-like ring; anthers linear, introrse, opening by longitudinal slits
Ovary 3-locular, inferior; style slender, elongate; stigmas linear and vertical or orbicular and horizontal from the apex of the style (>i>Vellozia); ovules numerous in many rows on stalked placentas
Fruit a tardily and irregularly dehiscent capsule
Seeds numerous; embryo small in a copious endosperm

Velloziaceae J.Agardh appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Theoria Syst. Pl. 9. 1858 [Apr-Sep 1858] (as "Vellozieae") (1858)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)

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 2021. Published on the Internet at and
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Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.