The Hamamelidae
Family Overview - Fagales
Fagaceae - the Beech or Oak Family
Diversity:  8 genera and about 900 species of trees and shrubs

Distribution:  World wide, except southern Africa with maximum diversity in the North temperate zone - 3 genera and 51 species in Texas with over 20 hybrids, including Quercus x comptoniae (see the Ness Oak).

Floral structure:

Significant features:  Like the Ulmaceae (Urticales) and Juglandaceae (Juglandales), the Fagaceae includes common and important elements of North temperate deciduous forests world wide, including Oak (Quercus) and Beech (Fagus), and Chestnut (Castanea) species.  Distinctive by their 'amentiferous' floral structures combined with alternate, simple leaves  and a distinctive fruiting structure.  The true fruit is a nut, but this is subtended by involucre of the pistillate flower which, in Quercus species, is connate and lignified to form the acorn cap.  Like taxa of the Juglandaceae, the mature seed contains a fully developed embryo which provides a high protein/oil food product for both wildlife (ecological importance) and humans (economic importance - European chestnut = Castanea sativa (the species epithet 'sativa' denotes cultivation).  Bark of the Cork Oak (Quercus suber - native to southern Europe) is used for cork, a unique biological (cellular) material that is difficult to replace by synthetics.  The American chestnut (Castanea dentata), an important element of eastern North American forests from both economic and ecological points of view, has followed a path similar to that described here for the American Elm (Ulmus americana) in that it has been decimated by an introduced, European fungus.
 
  Quercus nigra:

 staminate inflorescence at anthesis pistillate inflorescence at anthesis pistillate flower past anthesis, maturing with involucre pistillate flowers past anthesis, maturing with involucre
Quercus suber - overview from Kohler's Medicinal Plants Castanea pumila - staminate catkins and mature pistillate inflorescences from prior growing season

More information on the Fagaceae


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10 Feb 2010