Magnoliids (or Magnoliidae or Magnolianae) are a group of flowering
plants. Until recently, the group included about 9,000 species,
including magnolias, nutmeg, bay laurel, cinnamon, avocado, black
pepper, tulip tree and many others. That group is characterized by
trimerous flowers, pollen with one pore, and usually branching-veined
1.1 APG system
1.2 Cronquist system
1.3 Dahlgren and Thorne systems
1.4 Comparison table
2 Economic uses
3 See also
5 External links
"Magnoliidae" is the botanical name of a subclass, and "magnoliids" is
an informal name that does not conform to the International Code of
Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. The circumscription of a
subclass will vary with the taxonomic system being used. The only
requirement is that it must include the family Magnoliaceae. The
informal name "magnoliids" is used by some researchers to avoid the
confusion that recently surrounds the name "Magnoliidae". More
recently,[clarification needed] the group[clarification needed] has
been redefined under the
PhyloCode as a node-based clade comprising
the Canellales, Laurales, Magnoliales, and Piperales.
Chase & Reveal have proposed, "Magnoliidae" as the name used for
the entire group of flowering plants, and the formal name
"Magnolianae" for the group of four orders are discussed here.
The APG III (2009) and its predecessor systems did not originally use
formal botanical names above the rank of order. Under those systems,
larger clades were usually referred to by informal names, such as
"magnoliids" (plural, not capitalized) or "magnoliid complex". The
formal name in
Linnean nomenclature was specified in a separate APG
publication as the existing name "Magnolianae" Takht. (1967). The
APG III recognizes a clade within the angiosperms for the magnoliids.
The circumscription is:
The current phylogeny and composition of the magnoliids.
The clade includes most of the basal groups of the angiosperms. This
clade was formally named Magnoliidae in 2007 under provisions of the
Magnolia obovata, showing multiple petals, stamens, and
Cronquist system (1981) used the name Magnoliidae for one of six
subclasses (within class
Magnoliopsida = dicotyledons). In the
original version of this system the circumscription was:
Subclass Magnoliidae :
Dahlgren and Thorne systems
Both Dahlgren and Thorne classified the magnoliids (sensu APG) in
superorder Magnolianae, rather than as a subclass. In their
systems, the name Magnoliidae is used for a much larger group
including all dicotyledons. This is also the case in some of the
systems derived from the Cronquist system.
Dahlgren divided his Magnolianae into ten orders, more than other
systems of the time, and unlike Cronquist and Thorne, he did not
include the Piperales. Thorne grouped most of his Magnolianae into
two large orders,
Magnoliales and Berberidales, although his
Magnoliales was divided into suborders along lines similar to the
ordinal groupings used by both Cronquist and Dahlgren. Thorne revised
his system in 2000, restricting the name Magnoliidae to include only
the Magnolianae, Nymphaeanae, and Rafflesianae, and removing the
Berberidales and other previously included groups to his subclass
Ranunculidae. This revised system diverges from the Cronquist
system, but agrees more closely with the circumscription later
published under APG II.
Comparison of classification systems is often difficult. Two authors
may apply the same name to groups with different composition of
members; for example, Dahlgren's Magnoliidae includes all dicots,
whereas Cronquists' Magnoliidae is only one of five dicot groups. Two
authors may also describe the same group with nearly identical
composition, but each may then apply a different name to that group or
place the group at a different taxonomic rank. For example, the
composition of Cronquist's subclass Magnoliidae is nearly the same as
Thorne's (1992) superorder Magnolianae, despite the difference in
Because of these difficulties and others, the synoptic table below
imprecisely compares the definition of "magnoliid" groups in the
systems of four authors. For each system, only orders are named in the
table. All orders included by a particular author are listed and
linked in that column. When a taxon is not included by that author,
but was included by an author in another column, that item appears in
unlinked italics and indicates remote placement. The sequence of each
system has been altered from its publication in order to pair
corresponding taxa between columns.
Comparison of the magnoliids across five systems
APG II system
Thorne system (1992)
Thorne system (2000)
Piperales in Nymphaeanae
unplaced or in basal clades
placed in eudicot clade
The magnoliids is a large group of plants, with many species that are
economically important as food, drugs, perfumes, timber, and as
ornamentals, among many other uses.
The avocado has been cultivated in the Americas for thousands of
One widely cultivated magnoliid fruit is the avocado (Persea
americana), which is believed to have been cultivated in
Central America for nearly 10,000 years. Now grown throughout the
American tropics, it probably originates from the
Chiapas region of
Mexico or Guatemala, where "wild" avocados may still be found. The
soft pulp of the fruit is eaten fresh or mashed into guacamole. The
ancient peoples of
Central America were also the first to cultivate
several fruit-bearing species of Annona. These include the
custard-apple (A. reticulata), soursop (A. muricata), sweetsop or
sugar-apple (A. squamosa), and the cherimoya (A. cherimola). Both
soursop and sweetsop now are widely grown for their fruits in the Old
World as well.
Some members of the magnoliids have served as important food
additives. Oil of sassafras was formerly used as a key flavoring in
both root beer and in sarsaparilla. The primary ingredient
responsible for the oil's flavor is safrole, but it is no longer used
in either the
United States or Canada. Both nations banned the use of
safrole as a food additive in 1960 as a result of studies that
demonstrated safrole promoted liver damage and tumors in mice.
Consumption of more than a minute quantity of the oil causes nausea,
vomiting, hallucinations, and shallow rapid breathing. It is very
toxic, and can severely damage the kidneys. In addition to its
former use as a food additive, safrole from either
Sassafras or Ocotea
cymbarum is also the primary precursor for synthesis of MDMA
(methylenedioxymethamphetamine), commonly known as the drug
Nutmeg fruits are a source of the hallucinogen myristicin.
Other magnoliids also are known for their narcotic, hallucinogenic, or
paralytic properties. The Polynesian beverage kava is prepared from
the pulverized roots of Piper methysticum, and has both sedative and
narcotic properties. It is used throughout the Pacific in social
gatherings or after work to relax. Likewise, some native peoples of
the Amazon take a hallucinogenic snuff made from the dried and
powdered fluid exuded from the bark of
Virola trees. Another
hallucinogenic compound, myristicin, comes from the spice nutmeg.
As with safrole, ingestion of nutmeg in quantities can lead to
hallucinations, nausea, and vomiting, with symptoms lasting several
days. A more severe reaction comes from poisoning by rodiasine and
demethylrodiasine, the active ingredients in fruit extract from
Chlorocardium venenosum. These chemicals paralyze muscles and nerves,
resulting in tetanus-like reactions in animals. The
Cofán peoples of
westernmost Amazon in
Ecuador use the compound as a
poison to tip their arrows in hunting.
Not all the effects of chemical compounds in the magnoliids are
detrimental. In previous centuries, sailors would use Winter's Bark
from the South American tree
Drimys winteri to ward off the
vitamin-deficiency of scurvy. Today, benzoyl is extracted from
Lindera benzoin (common spicebush) for use as a food additive and skin
medicine, due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Drugs extracted from the bark of
Magnolia have long been used in
traditional Chinese medicine. Scientific investigation of magnolol and
honokiol have shown promise for their use in dental health. Both
compounds demonstrate effective anti-bacterial activity against the
bacteria responsible for bad breath and dental caries. Several
members of the family
Annonaceae are also under investigation for uses
of a group of chemicals called acetogenins. The first acetogenin
discovered was uvaricin, which has anti-leukemic properties when used
in living organisms. Other acetogenins have been discovered with
anti-malarial and anti-tumor properties, and some even inhibit HIV
replication in laboratory studies.
Many magnoliid species produce essential oils in their leaves, bark,
or wood. The tree
Virola surinamensis (Brazilian "nutmeg") contains
trimyristin, which is extracted in the form of a fat and used in soaps
and candles, as well as in shortenings. Other fragrant volatile
oils are extracted from
Aniba rosaeodora (bois-de-rose oil),
Cinnamomum porrectum, Cinnamomum cassia, and Litsea odorifera for
scenting soaps. Perfumes also are made from some of these oils;
ylang-ylang comes from the flowers of Cananga odorata, and is used by
Arab and Swahili women. A compound called nutmeg butter is
produced from the same tree as the spice of that name, but the
sweet-smelling "butter" is used in perfumery or as a lubricant rather
than as a food.
Magnoliids are also important sources of spices and herbs used to
flavor food, including the spices black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg,
and the herb bay laurel.
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