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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Celastraceae (from the genus Celastrus, an ancient Greek name). Staff-tree Family. Fig. 34. Shrubs or trees, often climbing: leaves alternate or rarely opposite, simple, not lobed: flowers bisexual or unisexual, small and greenish, regular; sepals 4—5, imbricated; petals 4-5, imbricated; stamens 4-5, alternate with the petals, rarely 10; disk present, lining the bottom of the calyx, sometimes adnate to the ovary; ovary superior, 2-5-celled, buried in the disk, or distinct and disk small; 1-2 ovules in each cell; style 1, short; stigmas 2-5-lobed: fruit a drupe, or samara, or a capsule; seeds albuminous, usually with a pulpy aril.

Thirty-eight genera and about 375 species are distributed in all parts of the world except the arctic zone. They are especially numerous in the tropics. Euonymus, Maytenus, and Celastrus are the largest genera. The Celastraceae are in some respects related to the Cyrillaceae, in others to the Aquifoliaceae and Rhamnaceae. The small greenish flowers, the stamens alternating with the petals, the ovary sunken in the disk, and the aril are in general distinctive. There are exceptions to all these characters.

The capsule of Celastrus and Euonymus frequently remains on the plant through late fall and early winter. It splits into from 3-5 valves, which become reflexed and expose the aril of the seeds. The contrast in color between aril and pericarp is often very striking and ornamental. The Celastraceae are mostly pollinated by ants and flies which run over the disk for the honey.

The Celastraceae are of but slight economic importance. Some have been used for their emetic and purgative properties. Catha edulis of East Africa has been long cultivated by the Arabs under the name khat; the leaves produce an agreeable excitement and it is considered a very valuable remedy for plague. The drupes of an Elaeodendron are said to be eaten in South Africa. The wood of some Celastraceae is much valued for carving.

In North America 6 or more genera of Celastraceae are grown for ornamental purposes: Elaeodendron in warm-houses and in southern parts; Euonymus, hardy North; Gymnosporia and Maytenus grown in southern regions; Pachistima, hardy; and Celastrus, a hardy vine.


The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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