Menispermaceae (Moonseed family)











Jateorhiza columba

The Menispermaceae consist of approximately 70 genera and 450 species that are found in tropical lowland regions. They are usually twining vines and are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants). The flowers are trimerous, with floral parts in whorls of three. Fruits are one-seeded drupes with taxonomically useful endocarp characteristics. Seeds contain useful taxonomic characters related to embryo size and shape and endosperm characteristics. The South American dart poison "curare" is derived from some species in this family. In addition, some species have medicinal value.

Figure 1. Preliminary bootstrap consensus tree of Menispermaceae based on atpB and rbcL sequence data. Work is in progress in the Hoot lab, adding many more genera to this tree.

Current research status:

The Hoot lab is actively working on the Menispermaceae. We are currently completing a paper with a more extensive sampling than shown above, based on the chloroplast genes atpB and rbcL. We continue to increase our sampling and have been sequencing an additional gene, matK, for the family.

Concurrently, we are developing a morphological data base which will be included within a database for all of the Ranunculales.


Kessler, P. J. A. 1993. Menispermaceae. Pp 402-418 in The families and genera of vascular plants, eds. K. Kubitzki, J.G. Rohwer, and V. Bittrich. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.

Thanikaimoni, G. 1986. Evolution of Menispermaceae. Canadian Journal of Botany 64: 3130-3133.