A synopsis of the genus Smythea (Rhamnaceae)
& Timothy M. A. Utteridge
A synoptic revision of the genus Smythea Seem. (Rhamnaceae) based on morphological evidence is
presented. A total of 11 species are recognised; ﬁve new species are described: Smythea batanensis, S. beccarii, S.
hirtella, S. poilanei and S. poomae, six new synonyms are established and a new combination is made: S. oblongifolia.
Several new distribution records are reported, including S. macrocarpa for Borneo and Sumatra and
S. oblongifolia for India. Generic delimitation between Smythea and the closely related genus Ventilago is
clariﬁed, and useful characters to identify the genera are discussed and illustrated. Distribution maps are
given for each species, as well as a preliminary conservation assessment based on IUCN guidelines.
conservation, IUCN, Malesia, South-East Asia, systematics, taxonomy, tropical climbers, Ventilagineae,
Smythea Seem. is a genus of 11 species of mostly South-
East Asian tropical climbers. The genus was placed in
tribe Ventilagineae of Rhamnaceae by Hooker (1862)
and retained there after phylogenetic analysis of plastid
genome rbcL and trnL-F sequences by Richardson et al.
(2000) where the tribe is monophyletic with strong
support according to the strict consensus trees obtained.
Smythea is closely related to Ventilago Gaertn., another
group of Old World tropical climbers and the only other
genus in Ventilagineae. As noted by Richardson et al. (loc.
cit.), Ventilagineae are unique in Rhamnaceae in their
fruits having a pronounced apical appendage. South-East
Asian Rhamnaceae are represented by about 15 genera
and some 100 or more species (Medan & Schirarend
2004), many of which, including those in Ventilagineae,
are poorly known and have not been included in recent
taxonomic studies: the family has yet to be treated for the
Flora Malesiana, or recent regional Floras such as the Flora
of Peninsular Malaysia (and climbing groups were not
treated in the Tree Flora of Malaya).
The genus Smythea, named in honour of William James
Smythe (1816 – 1887), general and colonel-commandant
of the Royal Artillery, ﬁrst appeared in a list of plants
collected by Berthold Seemann in the Fiji Islands
(Seemann 1861). The following year Asa Gray (1862)
published ‘Remarks’ about the plants collected by
Seemann, noting that S. paciﬁca Seem. was similar to
Ventilago bombaiensis Dalzell (= S. bombaiensis (Dalzell) S. P.
Banerjee & P. K. Mukh.) in its axillary ﬂowers and
V. lanceata Tul. (= S. lanceata (Tul.) Summerh.) in its fruit.
The following month, Seemann (1862) validly published
the genus, which contained only S. paciﬁca (= S. lanceata), a
mostly coastal species with a wide distribution, whose fruit
may ﬂoat in seawater for months (Guppy 1906: 529; Ridley
1930: 267). Revisions at a regional scale have since been
published in local Floras, e.g., King (1896)andRidley
(1922) reviewed the genus for the Malay Peninsula and
Banerjee & Mukherjee (1970)forIndia.
The number of species included in the genus has
varied depending on the interpretation of several mor-
phological characters at both the species and genus level.
For example, in his monographic studies of Rhamnaceae
in Die Natürlichen Pﬂanzenfamilien,Weberbauer(1895)
used the fruit’s undifferentiated lower portion of Smythea
species in contrast to the conspicuously globose seed
chamber in Ventilago as a diagnostic character. In the
second edition of the Pﬂanzenfamilien, Suessenguth
(1953) retained Weberbauer’scharacterand
enumerated six distinct species of Smythea.Usingthe
characters described in Die Natürlichen Pﬂanzenfamilien,
Banerjee & Mukherjee (1969, 1970) transferred two
species from Ventilago to Smythea. We discuss the utility
of these fruit characters in regard to generic limits, as well
as taxonomically useful characters for species delimita-
tion, in more detail below. Using these characters a new
combination is made here, S. oblongifolia,andﬁve new
Smythea species have been found in the herbarium
material examined, and are described here.
Material and methods
Herbarium specimens from A, BKF, E, GH, K, KEP
and L were used for study and measurements;
Accepted for publication 20 September 2017.
Life Sciences Faculty, Université de Strasbourg, 28 rue Goethe, 67083, Strasbourg, France.
Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AE, UK. e-mail: email@example.com
KEW BULLETIN (2018) 73:2
ISSN: 0075-5974 (print)
ISSN: 1874-933X (electronic)
© The Author(s), 2017