Taxonomy of Flowering Plants - LECTURE NOTES
Hugh D. Wilson

The Hamamelidae

Subclass Hamamelidae, the smallest of the dicot Subclasses, includes 11 orders, 24 families and about 3,400 species.  About 90% of the species occur in two orders, the Urticales and Fagales.  The group is weighted in taxa at the higher ranks (Orders with few families and families with few species) and its fossil record extends to the lower Cretaceous (100 million years ago).  Some believe that the group is either marked by high levels of extinction, thereby producing an array taxa well separated, more or less relictual taxa or, perhaps, polyphyletic (an artifical assemblage with elements drawn from several ancestral types.  Families included by Cronquist in this Subclass are typically woody (Urticales an exception) and characterized by a suite of structural adaptations associated with wind pollination or anemophily. These features include:

    unisexual (imperfect) flowers with taxa either monoecious or dioecious

    perianth reduced, weakly developed or absent (apetalous)

    inflorescences with numerous, small (reduced), often apetalous flowers with the most specialized type the catkin or ament (older name for the group is 'Amentiferae')

The Order Trochodendrales is placed at the base of the Hamamelidae and the Genus Casuarina (Australian Pine - Casuarinaceae, Casuarinales) takes the most derived or specialized position.  Elements of the Trochodendrales (two, monotypic families - Tetracentraceae and Trochodendraceae) lack vessel elements and tend toward apocarpy whereas Casuarina shows multiple (fruiting pistillate inflorescence) fruiting structures. Our coverage of the Subclass Hamamelidae will include:


Since the two subclasses covered represent two, distinct 'models' for the primitive or archaic flowering plant, they will come into play when we examine the history or evolution of flowering plant classification systems.

Return to Lecture Notes, the Biology 301 homepage, the Caryophyllidae, or the Magnoliidae