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The Apocynaceae or dogbane family is a family of flowering plant that includes trees, shrubs, herbs, and lianas.

Many species are tall trees found in tropical rainforests, and most are from the tropics and subtropics, but some grow in tropical dry, xeric environments. There are also perennial herbs from temperate zones. Many of these plants have milky sap; and many species are poisonous if ingested. Some genera of Apocynaceae, such as Adenium however, have either clear and milky, latex sap, and others, such as Pachypodium, always have clear sap.


The family, as currently recognized, includes some 1500 species divided in about 424 genera. The family Asclepiadaceae is now, according to AGP II included in the Apocynaceae (Endress & Bruyns, 2000).

There are five subfamilies:

The former two sub-families were part of the Apocynaceae sensu stricto, whilst the latter three sub-families used to belong to the Asclepiadaceae. The Apocynaceae is the result of a conflation of the two families.


Species in this family are distributed mainly in tropical regions:
  • In the rainforests and swamps of Indomalaya: small to very tall evergreen trees up to 80 m tall, often with buttress roots, such as Alstonia and Dyera.
  • In northern Australia: small evergreen trees such as Alstonia, Alyxia, Cerbera and Ochrosia.
  • In deciduous forests of Africa and India: smaller trees such as Carissa, Wrightia and Holarrhena.
  • In tropical America, India, Myanmar and Malaya: evergreen trees and shrubs, such as Rauwolfia, Tabernaemontana and Acokanthera.
  • In Central America: Plumeria, or the frangipani, with its waxy white or pink flowers and a sweet scent.
  • In South America, Africa and Madagascar: many lianas such as Landolphia.
  • In the Mediterranean region: Nerium, with the well-known oleander or Be-still tree (Nerium oleander).
  • The only genera found in temperate Europe away from the Mediterranean are Vinca (Apocynoideae) and Vincetoxicum (Asclepiadoideae).
  • In North America: Apocynum, dogbane or Indian hemp, including Apocynum cannabinum, a traditional source of fiber.
  • In continental southern Africa (Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe) and Madagascar, except for the humid evergreen forest of the eastern side of Madagascar, and never above 2000 m for the entire island: Pachypodium.


The leave are simple, usually opposite and decussate, or whorled; lacking stipules. Flowers are usually showy, radially symmetrical (actinomorphic), aggregated in cymose or racemose inflorescences (rarely fasciculate or solitary). They are perfect (bisexual), with a synsepalous, 5-lobed calyx. Inflorescences are terminal or axillary. The stamens are inserted on the inside of the corolla tube. The ovary is usually superior.

The fruit is a drupe, a berry, a capsule or a follicle.



Acokanthera Adenium Aganonerion Aganosma
Alafia Allamanda Allomarkgrafia Allowoodsonia
Alstonia Alyxia Amalocalyx Ambelania
Amsonia Ancylobotrys Anechites Angadenia
Anodendron Apocynum Arduina Artia
Asketanthera Aspidosperma Baissea Beaumontia
Bousigonia Cabucala Callichilia Calocrater
Cameraria Carissa Carpodinus Carruthersia
Carvalhoa Catharanthus Cerbera Cerberiopsis
Chamaeclitandra Chilocarpus Chonemorpha Cleghornia
Clitandra Condylocarpon Couma Craspidospermum
Crioceras Cycladenia Cyclocotyla Cylindropsis
Delphyodon Dewevrella Dictyophleba Dipladenia
Diplorhynchus Dyera Ecdysanthera Echites
Elytropus Epigynium Eucorymbia Farquharia
Fernaldia Forsteronia Funtumia Galactophora
Geissospermum Gonioma Grisseea Gymnema
Hancornia Haplophyton Himatanthus Holarrhena
Hunteria Hymenolophus Ichnocarpus Isonema
Ixodonerium Kamettia Kibatalia Kopsia
Lacmellea Landolphia Laubertia Laxoplumeria
Lepinia Lepiniopsis Leuconotis Lochnera
Lyonsia Macoubea Macropharynx Macrosiphonia
Malouetia Mandevilla Mascarenhasia Melodinus
Mesechites Micrechtites Microplumeria Molongum
Mortoniella Motandra Mucoa Neobracea
Neocouma Nerium Nouettea Ochrosia
Odontadenia Oncinotis Orthopichonia Pachypodium
Pachouria Papuechites Parahancornia Parameria
Parepigynum Parsonsia Peltastes Pentalinon
Petchia Picralima Plectaneia Pleiocarpa
Pleioceras Plumeria Pottsia Prestonia
Pycnobotrya Quiotania Rauwolfia Rhabdadenia
Rhazya Rhigospira Rhodocalyx Rhyncodia
Saba Schizozygia Secondatia
Sindechites Skytanthus Spirolobium Spongiosperma
Stemmadenia Stephanostegia Stephanostema Stipecoma
Strempeliopsis Strophanthus Tabernaemontana Tabernanthe
Temnadenia Thenardia Thevetia Tintinnabularia
Trachelospermum Urceola Urnularia Vahadenia
Vallariopsis Vallaris Vallesia Vinca
Voacanga Willughbeia Woytkowskia Wrightia
Xylinabaria Xylinabariopsis

The following genera used to belong to the family Asclepiadaceae:


Several plants of this family had economic uses in the past.

The genera Carpodinus, Landolphia, Hancornia, Funtumia and Mascarenhasia were used as a commercial source of inferior rubber.

The juice of Acokanthera species such as A. venenata and the milky juice of the Namibianmarker Pachypodium has been used as venom for arrow tips by the Bushmen. Some sources (Rapananrivo et al. on p. 5) state that Pachypodium do not have a milky sap.

Several genera are grown as ornamental plants, including Amsonia (bluestar), Nerium (oleander), Vinca (periwinkle), Carissa (Natal plum, an edible fruit), Allamanda (golden trumpet), Plumeria (frangipani), Thevetia (lucky nut), Mandevilla (Savannah flower), Adenium (desert-rose).

Rauvolfia cafra is the Quinine tree. Rauvolfia serpentina or Indian Snakeroot yields the alkaloids reserpine and rescinnamine.

Some are sources of drugs, such as cardiac glycosides, affecting the heart function, including Acokanthera, Apocynum, Cerbera, Nerium, Thevetia and Strophantus.

The genus Apocynum was used as a source of fiber by Native Americans.

The edible flower of Fernaldia pandurata (common name: loroco) is a popular part of El Salvadorianmarker and Guatemalanmarker cooking.


  • Rapanarivo, S.H.J.V; Lavranos, J.J; Leeuwenberg, A.J.M.; AND Röösli, W. [Taxonomic revision of the genus Pachypodium. S.H.J.V Rapanarivo and A.J.M Leeuwenberg]; [The habitats of Pachyopdium species. S.H.J.V Rapanarivo]; [Cultivation. W. Röösli] (A.A. Balkema: Rotterdam, Brookfield, 1999 p. 5) ". . . Adenium species have either clear sap or white latex. Pachypodium . . . always has clear sap".

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