Families of Vascular Plants - EEB337H

Ericales - Ericaceae

(plus Monotropaceae and Pyrolaceae)

103 genera/3350 spp., cosmopolitan, but not in deserts and in the tropics usually montane.  Shrubs and trees, sometimes lianes or subherbs, mycorrhizal, and often on acid soils. Leaves simple, often evergreen and with adaptations for minimizing water loss ("Ericoid"), usually spirally arranged. Stipules absent.

K (5); C 5 or (5). A10, anthers dehiscing by pores or (sometimes) slits, pollen grains in tetrads except where petals also free.  G(5), superior to inferior, developing into a berry, capsule (loculicidal or septicidal), or drupe. 

Predominantly north temperate in distribution, but with greatest diversity in southern Africa, the Andes, the Himalayas and China (Rhododendron), and New Guinea. 

Judd et al. 1999, pp. 351-354.

In North America and Europe Ericaceae are commonly found in bogs such as kettle bogs (left; Byron Bog, London ON) and blanket bogs (right; Liffy Bog, S of Dublin, Eire - Prof. D. L. Kelly for scale). In these habitats Ericaceae are by no means the only plants present (just as bogs are by no means the only habitat in which Ericaceae are found). The high water table favors the growth of the moss Sphagnum, and this in turn results in the acidity of these habitats. Low pH in turn reduces both microbial activity (leading to the accumulation of peat) and nutrient availability (so that some bog plants rely on trapping insects for additional nutrients). For more information about bogs, visit the super site set up by E. M. Temsch.


Ericaceae subfamilial (phenetic) classification (Mabberley 1997)
Rhododendroideae well-developed, flat; some with revolute margins usually terminal anther and filament appendages absent, ovary superior, developing into septicidal capsule in tetrads with viscin threads
Ericoideae scale- or needle-like, very revolute ("ericoid") variable in position anther and filament appendages present in some, ovary superior, developing into loculicidal capsule viscin threads absent
Vaccinioideae well-developed, flat variable anther and filament appendages present, ovary inferior or superior, developing into loculicidal capsule or berry viscin threads absent
Monotropoideae scale-like, achlorophyllous (as is the entire plant) terminal anther and filament appendages absent or present in some, ovary superior, developing into loculicidal capsule or berry in monads
Pyroloideae well-developed, or scale-like terminal anther and filament appendages absent, ovary superior, developing into loculicidal capsule     
Ericaceae phylogenetic results (redrawn using MacClade 4.0 from Judd et al. 1999 Figure 8.106)

Based on phylogenetic analyses of cpDNA sequence variation (Kron 1997 and Kron et al. 1999).

Click on the clade names in order to visit pages illustrating clade members (use your browser's BACK button to return here)

Ontario native genera of Ericaceae include:

The Flora North America treatment of the Ericaceae (Tucker (and others) 2009) is available HERE:

Flora North America - Asteraceae

Click HERE to identify the Ontario genera of the Ericaceae (s.str.) using PollyClave logo.


The Families of Flowering Plants
DELTA database in natural language

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

Ericaceae, Monotropaceae, Pyrolaceae

Images from Botany at the University of Hawaii

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Please send your comments to tim.dickinson@utoronto.ca; last updated 19-Nov-2011