Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Important Plant Families in South Africa - Myrtaceae

In order to facilitate the identification of our wealth of lovely South African trees, it is helpful to be familiar with the most prominent plant families in an area as well as the characteristics that distinguish each plant family. Every month we will feature one of the most important and well represented plant families, focusing on easily recognisable features to assist identification.

Myrtaceae (Guava family)

This mostly tropical and subtropical family is represented by some 25 species of trees that are indigenous to South Africa.

Myrtaceae is an easy to recognise family in this region as they are usually evergreen and all have a combination of simple, opposite, entire leaves with secretory cavities or gland dotted leaves. Many members of this family have leaves that are aromatic when crushed.

The puff-like flowers have numerous showy stamens while the ovary is almost always inferior, resulting in fruit that is crowned by a persistent calyx.

Myrtaceae is an economically important family, as several of the introduced species yield valuable timber, and are grown in commercial plantations.

Other exotic members of this economically valuable family include Pimenta dioica which produces allspice or pimento, Syzygium aromaticum which produces cloves and the well known Psidium guajava or delectable guava.

Local members of this family include Eugenia capensis (Dune myrtle), Metrosideros angustifolia (Lance-leafed myrtle), Syzygium cordatum (Water berry), Eugenia natalitia (Common forest myrtle) and Syzygium guineense (Water pear).

Classification Myrtaceae

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