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Apocynum cannabinum
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Type genus

Apocynaceae (/əˌpɑːsəˈnsiˌ, -sˌ/, from Apocynum, Greek for "dog-away") is a family of flowering plants that includes trees, shrubs, herbs, stem succulents, and vines, commonly known as the dogbane family,[1] because some taxa were used as dog poison.[when?][2] Members of the family are native to the European, Asian, African, Australian, and American tropics or subtropics, with some temperate members.[1] The former family Asclepiadaceae (now known as Asclepiadoideae) is considered a subfamily of Apocynaceae and contains 348 genera. A list of Apocynaceae genera may be found here.

Many species are tall trees found in

cardiac glycosides, those containing the latter often finding use as arrow poisons. Some genera of Apocynaceae, such as Adenium, bleed clear sap without latex when damaged, and others, such as Pachypodium
, have milky latex apart from their sap.


Alstonia scholaris, arrangement of leaves

Growth pattern

The dogbane/milkweed

perennial herbs, stem succulents, woody shrubs, trees, or vines.[1][3] Most exude a milky latex when cut.[4]

Leaves and stems


There is no stipule (a small leaf-like structure at the base of the leaf stem), or stipules are small and sometimes finger-like.[3]

Inflorescence and fruit

Rhigospira quadrangularis, portion of a plant. 1) the inflorescence and 2) a flower, to scale; 3) corolla in bud, showing the pyramidal form of the erect segments in aestivation and 4) the same cut open when expanded, showing their simple sinistrorse convolution and the nearly basal position of the stamens, both magnified; 5) the calyx, disk, very short style, clavuncle, and stigmata, to scale; 6) the same, magnified; 7) a stamen, much magnified.[5]

Rhigospira quadrangularis show a typical tripartite style which divides into three zones (specialised for pollen deposition, viscin secretion, and the reception of pollen).[8]

The fruit is a drupe, a berry, a capsule, or a (frequently paired) follicle.[1] The seeds are often winged or have appendages of long silky hairs.[9]


As of 2012, the family was described as comprising some 5,100 species, in five subfamilies:[10]

The former family Asclepiadaceae is included in Apocynaceae according to the

Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III (APG III) modern, largely molecular-based system of flowering plant taxonomy.[11]
An updated classification, including 366 genera, 25 tribes, and 49 subtribes, was published in 2014.[12]

376 genera are currently accepted.[13]

Distribution and habitat

Species in this family are distributed mainly in tropical regions:


Several genera are preferred larval host plants for the Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus).[14]


Many species of plants from the family Apocynaceae have some toxicity, with some being extremely poisonous if parts are ingested, or if they are not handled properly. Genera containing cardiac glycosidesCerbera, Nerium, Asclepias, Cascabela, Strophanthus,[6] Acokanthera,[15] Apocynum,[16] Thevetia,[17] etc.—have therapeutic ranges, but are often associated with accidental poisonings, in many cases lethal (see below). Alkaloid-producing species like Rauvolfia serpentina, Catharanthus roseus, and Tabernanthe iboga are likewise the source of compounds with therapeutic ranges, but which have significant associated toxicities if not taken in appropriate doses and in controlled fashion. (See below)


Several members of the family Apocynaceae have had economic uses in the past. Several are sources of important

antihypertensive drug used in the treatment of high blood pressure.[24]

Many genera are grown as ornamental plants, including Amsonia (bluestar),[27] Nerium (oleander),[28] Vinca (periwinkle),[29] Carissa (Natal plum),[30] Allamanda (golden trumpet),[31] Plumeria (frangipani),[32] Thevetia,[33] Mandevilla (Savannah flower),[34] and Adenium (desert-rose).[35]

In addition, the genera

Congo rubber

There are limited dietary uses of plants from this family. The flower of

Bungo or Mbungo fruit) is used as a drink.[40]

Finally, ethnopharmacologic and ethnotoxicologic uses are also known. The roots of

A. venenata and the milky juice of the Namibian Pachypodium have been used as poison for arrow tips.[41]

Many species are ornamental in gardens or as houseplants.




Pachycaul species

  • Adenium obesum growth habit of wild specimens, Tanzania
    Adenium obesum growth habit of wild specimens, Tanzania
  • Adenium obesum close-up of colossal specimen, Ghana
    Adenium obesum close-up of colossal specimen, Ghana
  • Adenium obesum trunk of extreme pachycaul specimen, Socotra
    Adenium obesum trunk of extreme pachycaul specimen, Socotra
  • Pachypodium lamerei wild specimen of maximum height (approx 6 m (20 ft)) attained by species
    Pachypodium lamerei wild specimen of maximum height (approx 6 m (20 ft)) attained by species
  • Pachypodium lamerei in flower
  • Pachypodium lamerei mature, multi-trunked specimen cultivated in glasshouse
    Pachypodium lamerei mature, multi-trunked specimen cultivated in glasshouse
  • Pachypodium namaquanum


  1. ^
    S2CID 31739212
  2. ^ .
  3. ^ a b c Apocynaceae, Thomas Rosatti, Jepson Herbarium
  4. ^ "Apocynaceae usually have copious latex and the leaves are often opposite and with colleters...", retrieved 3/10/18 from ANGIOSPERM PHYLOGENY WEBSITE, version 13 http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/Research/APweb/
  5. ^ Miers, J. (1878). On the Apocynaceae of South America, with some preliminary remarks on the whole family. p. 269.
  6. ^ a b c "PlantNET - FloraOnline: Apocynaceae". plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  7. ^ a b "Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 14, July 2017 [and more or less continuously updated since]". Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  8. .
  9. ^ "Apocynaceae Juss. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  10. ^ Nazia Nazar, David J. Goyder, James J. Clarkson, Tariq Mahmood and Mark W. Chase, 2013, "The taxonomy and systematics of Apocynaceae: Where we stand in 2012," Bot. J. Linn. Soc., 171(3, March), pp. 482–490, see [1], accessed 22 June 2015.
  11. .
  12. .
  13. ^ Apocynaceae Juss. Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  14. ^ Klots, Alexander B. (1951). A Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Riverside Press. pp. 77–79.
  15. S2CID 208362795
    – via HeinOnline.
  16. .
  17. .
  18. ^ "reserpine". drugcentral.org. Retrieved 2020-05-31.
  19. ISBN 9788184488418. Retrieved 2020-06-01.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link
  20. .
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  22. PMID 27734823.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link
  23. .
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  27. ^ "StackPath: Growing Amsonia". www.gardeningknowhow.com. 22 June 2013. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  28. ^ "Oleander". Better Homes & Gardens. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  29. ^ "Annual Vinca". Better Homes & Gardens. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  30. ^ "Carissa macrocarpa - Useful Tropical Plants". tropical.theferns.info. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  31. ^ Agriculture and Fisheries (2015-10-30). "Yellow allamanda". www.business.qld.gov.au. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  32. ^ "PLUMERIA RUBRA: AN OLD ORNAMENTAL, A NEW CROP". www.actahort.org. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  33. ^ "Factsheet - Thevetia peruviana (Yellow Oleander)". keys.lucidcentral.org. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  34. ^ "Propagating Mandevilla: Using Mandevilla Cuttings Or Seeds To Propagate Mandevilla Vine". 14 September 2010.
  35. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Desert Rose Plant: How to Grow Desert Rose and Adeniums, retrieved 2020-06-01
  36. ^ Western Australian Herbarium. "FloraBase—the Western Australian Flora:Apocynaceae". florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au. Biodiversity and Conservation Science. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  37. ^ "Loroco: flower buds used as an herb". CooksInfo. Retrieved 2020-05-31.
  38. ^ "Floridata: Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum)". floridata.com. Retrieved 2020-05-31.
  39. ^ Coville, F. V. (1897). "Notes On The Plants Used By The Klamath Indians Of Oregon" (PDF). Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium. VII (3): 295–408–108 (p. 379). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  40. ^ "Saba comorensis in Agroforestree Database" (PDF). Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  41. ^ "Pachypodium | PlantZAfrica". pza.sanbi.org. Retrieved 2020-05-31.

External links

Further reading

  • A review on antimicrobial botanicals, phytochemicals and natural resistance modifying agents from Apocynaceae family: Possible therapeutic approaches against multidrug resistance in pathogenic microorganisms.