Family Lecythidaceae Poiteau 1825 nom conserv the Brazilnut Family

Physical description: The family Lecy-thidaceae consists of 20 genera and 400 species of soft-wooded tropical trees known to abound with tannins and saponins. In this family, the leaves are simple, alternate, commonly crowded at the tips of the stems, toothed, glossy, tapered at the base and without stipules. The flowers are ephemeral, epig-ynous, perfect, showy, and regular. The calyx consists of 2-12 valvate sepals. The corolla consists of 4-6 petals which are free, imbricate and thin. Note that the perianth and the andrecium are often fused and dropped together. The andrecium comprises of numerous stamens either inserted in centrifugal series or gathered in a very characteristic tongue-shaped and succulent body. The gynecium consists of 2-6 carpels united into a 2-6-locular, inferior ovary, each locule containing a single or many ovules attached to an axillary or a basal placenta. The fruits are capsular or drupaceous, large and marked at the apex by a conspicuous nectary disc.

Pharmaceutical interest: A classical example of Lecythidaceae is Bertholletia excel-sia Humboldt & Bompland, the seeds of which are the commercial Brazil-nuts. Another example is Couroupita guianensis Aubl. (canon-ball tree), which is cultivated to decorate parks and other public areas in some tropical countries. In Southeast Asia, Barringtonia acutangula (L.) Gaertn.

(Barringtonia luzonensis (Presl) Vidal), Barringtonia asiatica (L.) Kurz. (Bar-ringtonia speciosa J.R. & G. Forst., Barringtonia butonica Forst.), Barringtonia racemosa (L.) Spreng., Barringtonia macrostachya (jack) Kurz (Barringtonia cylindrostachya griff.), Careya arborea Roxb., Careya sphaerica Roxb., Chydenanthus excelsus (Bl.) Miers, (Barringtonia vriesiiTeijs. & Binn.), and Planchonia papuana R. are used to treat various ailments, including diarrhea, skin problems and rheumatism. Note also that the seeds of several of these plants are used to catch fish on account of their stupefying saponins. It will be interesting to learn whether more intensive future research on this family will disclose any molecules of therapeutic interest such as cucurbitacins.

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