Group 3 Notes

Caesalpiniaceae (also classified as a subfamily ((oideaea)) within Fabaceae)

Habit: Family of trees, shrubs, lianas and herbs.  Leaves can be pinnately compound to bi-pinnately compound.  Flowers are usually irregular in symmetry (zygomorphic), small and usually perfect, appearing before the leaves with greenish-white usually distinct petals In Cercis the lateral petals fuse) with one being larger and often different in color than the two lateral petals, and at most 10 stamens.  Fruit is a legume.

Ecology: Members of this family make a valuable contribution to restoration given the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the root nodules.  Members in this family often found in tropical and subtropical locations.

Use:  Restoration, ornamental.


Habit: Woody family with alternate and opposite leaf arrangement and simple complexity.  Venation is arcuate with an entire or slightly serrated leaf margin.  Pith in twigs can be diaphragmed or solid.  Plants can be synoecious or dioecious.  Flowers are perfect or imperfect with white petals or bracts and often make up a compound cyme inflorescence.  Fruit is a drupe with purpleish-blue, red or white color.  Floral formula is generally  4-5; 4-5; 4-5; 2

Ecology:  Members from this family are found throughout the northern hemisphere.  Many members in this family found locally in both shaded and sunny locations.

Use:  Primarily ornamentals and provide food for wildlife.  Some Native American groups used members of this family for making spears because of the hardness of the wood.


Habit:  Many sub-families in this family due to variety of features.  Members can be herbs, shrubs or trees.  Leaves usually alternate, simple and often persistent.  Inflorescence is of solitary flowers, clusters, racemes, corymbs, umbels and panicles,  Flowers are regular with a capsule or drupe fruit type. 

Ecology:  Members of this family occur from polar regions to the tropics.  Most commonly found in acidic nutrient poor soils and have mycorrhizal fungi that are essential to the plants

Use:  Ornamentals (Rhododendron, Erica (heather)) and food crops Vaccinium (Blueberry and ccranberry)

Vaccinium corymbosum Highbush blueberry

Rhododendron maximum Great Rhododendron


Habit: The family is made up of shrubs and trees with simple alternating, stipulate leaves often pinnately lobed or serrated margins.  Plants are monecious with staminate inflorescence making up an erect spike and pistillate inflorescence surrounded by numerous connate bracts.  Flowers therefore imperfect, but having regular symmetry.  Fruit generally a nut surrounded by a woody cup-like or bur-like covering.

Ecology:  Members of this family found in both northern and southern hemispheres.  Shrub oaks are an important member of the chaparral of western North America. 

Use:  Lumber, (Quercus = charcoal), acorns and chestnuts eaten as a staple by early Native Americans (after special treating because of high tannin levels), baskets, food for wildlife. 

Quercus alba white oak

Quercus rubra red oak

Quercus prinus chestnut oak

Fagus grandifolia American beech

Castanea dentata American chestnut


Habit:  Largest of the flowering plant families in terms of species diversity.  Family is made up of herbs, shrubs, trees, and woody vines.  Leaves are usually alternate, most commonly pinnate or bi-pinnate with stipules.  Flowers usually perfect with inflorescence a solitary flower or racemes, or umbels.  Fruit a legume.

Ecology:  Members of this family are found worldwide. 

Use:  Economically one of the most important families due to the food crops it provides (peanuts, lentils, peas, soybeans, clover, alfalfa, cowpeas).  Members in this family also used for soil restoration and to increase soil fertility. 

Robinia pseudoacacia Black Locust


Pictures and identifications courtesy of Dendrology at Virginia Tech

Home | Links | Projects | 19th Century Art | Biology | Cartography | Photos | Recipes | Resumè