Theaceae /θiːˈeɪsiː/ is a family of flowering plants, composed of
shrubs and trees, including the camellias. It can be described as
having from seven to 40 genera, depending on the source and the method
of circumscription used. The family Ternstroemiaceae has been included
within Theaceae; however, the
APG III system of 2009 places it
instead in Pentaphylacaceae.
1 Family characteristics
5 Economic importance
Plants in this family are characterized by simple leaves that are
alternate spiral to distichial, serrated, and usually glossy. Most of
the genera have evergreen foliage, but
deciduous. The toothed margins are generally associated with a
characteristic Theoid leaf tooth, which is crowned by a glandular,
deciduous tip. The flowers in this family are usually pink or white
and large and showy, often with a strong scent. The calyx consists
of five or more sepals, which are often persistent in the fruiting
stage, and the corolla is five-merous, rarely numerous. Plants in
Theaceae are multistaminate, usually with 20-100+ stamen either free
or adnate to the base of the corolla, and are also distinctive because
of the presence of pseudopollen. The pseudopollen is produced from
connective cells, and has either rib-like or circular thickenings. The
ovary is often hairy and narrows gradually into the style, which may
be branched or cleft. The carpels are typically opposite from the
petals, or the sepals in the case of Camellia. The fruits are
loculicidal capsules, indehiscent baccate fruits or sometimes
pome-like. The seeds are few and sometimes winged, or in some generas
covered by fleshy tissue or unwinged and nude.
As of March 2017[update], the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website
accepts the following genera:
Apterosperma Hung T. Chang
Camellia L., including Piquetia (Pierre) H.Hallier, Thea L., Yunnanea
Gordonia Ellis, including Laplacea
Pyrenaria Blume, including Dubardella H.J.Lam, Glyptocarpa Hu,
Parapyrenaria H.T.Chang, Sinopyrenaria Hu, Tutcheria Dunn
Stewartia L., including Hartia Dunn
The fossil Pentapetalum trifasciculandricus, about 91 million years
old, may belong to the
Theaceae or the Pentaphylacaceae.
There is distinctive chemistry within the
Theaceae family. Sometimes,
single crystals of calcium oxalate are present in Theaceous plants.
Ellagic acid and common polyphenols including flavonols, flavones and
proanthocyanins are widely distributed throughout the family. Gallic
acid and catechins only occur in
Camellia sect. Thea (C. sinensis, C.
taliensis and C. irrawadiensis.) Caffeine and its precursors
theobromine and theophylline are only found in sect. Thea and are not
found in other species of
Camellia or other Theaceae. Caffeine content
in the tea bush makes up 2.5-4% of the leaf's dry weight, and this
high content of catechins and caffeine in the tea bush is the result
of selection by man for these characters. Triterpenes and their
glycosides (saponins) are found widely throughout the family in the
seeds, leaves, wood and bark. Plants in this family are also known to
accumulate aluminum and fluoride.
Members of the family are found in Southeast Asia and Malesia,
tropical South America and the Southeast United States. Three genera
(Franklinia, Gordonia and Stewartia) have species native to the
Southeast United States, with
Franklinia being endemic there, and
under some interpretations, also Gordonia with the Asian species
formerly included in that genus being transferred to Polyspora.
The best known genus is Camellia, which includes the plant whose
leaves are used to produce tea (
Camellia sinensis). In parts of Asia,
other species are used as a beverage, including C. taliensis, C.
grandibractiata, C. kwangsiensis, C. gymnogyna, C. crassicolumna, C.
tachangensis, C. ptilophylla, and C. irrawadiensis. Several species
are grown widely as ornamentals for their flowers and handsome
Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) entry for
^ Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Vascular
Plant Families and Genera:
^ a b c Watson, L., & Dallwitz, M. J. (1992 onwards). The families
of flowering plants. Theaceae
^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm
Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of
flowering plants: APG III". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.
161 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x.
^ a b Stevens, P.F. 2003. Clusiaceae. In: Kubitzki, K. (Eds.), The
Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Springer, Hamburg, Germany
^ Luna I, Ochoterena H (2004) ‘Phylogenetic relationships of the
Theaceae based on morphology.’ Cladistics Vol. 20 223-270
^ a b Stevens, P.F., "Theaceae", Angiosperm Phylogeny Website,
Flora of China
Flora of China "
^ Chang, H.T., Bartholomew, R.C. 1984. Camellias. Timber Press,
Watson & Dallwi