Family Begoniaceae C A Agardh 1825 nom conserv the Begonia Family

Physical description: The family Begoniaceae consists principally of the large tropical genus Begonia, which consists of about 1000 species of succulent, sappy herbs and soft-stemmed shrubs. Begoniaceae are known to produce cucurbitacins, and oxalic acid. The leaves in this family are simple, alternate, principally palmately veined and often palmately lobed, and toothed, and have large stipules. The flowers are unisexual and irregular, and arranged in axillary, cymose, occasionally long-pedunculate inflorescences. The perianth consists of up to 10 petaloid tepals. The andrecium comprises of 4 or more stamens originating in a centripetal sequence. The gynecium consists of 3 carpels forming a compound, inferior, plurilocular ovary containing several ovules attached to axillary placentas and developing upwards into a distinct style. The fruits are loculicidal capsules, or berries containing several small seeds. The structures of the andrecium and gynecium in the family Begoniaceae are unusual for members of the Violales. However, one could say that cucur-bitacins justify the classification of Begoniaceae with the Cucurbitaceae and Datiscaceae in the order Violales, or at least their common Violales-Malvales ancestors.

Pharmaceutical interest: Many plants classified within the genera Begonia are cultivated to decorate gardens. Begoniaceae are interesting because they contain cucurbitacins which hold potential for the treatment of cancer (see p.). Begonia evansia Andr. (Begonia discolor Ait.), Begonia fimbristipulata Hance, Begonia isoptera Dryand. and Begonia oblonga Merr. are of medicinal value in the Asia-Pacific. Most of these herbs are used as a counter-irritant on account of the oxalic acid.

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