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updated: 01/19/11 

(Gentianaceae: Helieae)

more images
The convoluted history of the name Lisianthus

Common name: Moon-gentians

Latin name and synonyms: Macrocarpaea (Griseb.) Gilg in Engl. & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam. 4(2): 94 (1895)
Synonym: Lisyanthus sect. Macrocarpaea Griseb., Gen. Sp. Gent. 173 (1839 [1838]).
Synonym: Lisianthus sect. Megacarpaea Benth. in Benth. & Hook. f., Gen. Pl. 2: 814 (1876), orthographic error.
Synonym: Rusbyanthus Gilg in Engl. & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam. 4(2): 95 (1895)

Etymology: Macrocarpaea is named after its large fruits = "macro" (large) + "carpus" (fruit).

Species:   This genus in currently being revised by Jason R. Grant, and the current species estimate in the genus is about 100.  The previous revision by Ewan (1948) identified 42 species. Also, the species with pollen tetrads included in Macrocarpaea by Ewan, now form the new genus Rogersonanthus (Maguire & Boom, 1989).

Distribution: Neotropics; in Bolivia, southeastern Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, western Guyana, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

Habitat:  Macrocarpaea grows mostly in wet forests on mountains in tropical America.

Characteristics:   Branched shrubs (rarely epiphytic) or small trees up to 10 m (rarely perennial herbs: M. rubra). Leaves often large, sessile to petiolate, shape linear, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic, to obovate. Inflorescences terminal, composed of few- or many-flowered dichasia or cymes, often with leaf-like bracts. Flowers 5-merous, large (2.0-7.5 cm long), slightly zygomorphic. Calyces campanulate, fused at the base, thick. Corollas yellow, white, to greenish, funnelshaped, thick and fleshy. Stamens inserted in the middle or lower part of the corolla tube, with linear to oblong anthers, recurved after anthesis. The pollen in monads. Ovary with nectary disk around the base, style long, slender, stigma bilamellate. Fruit a dry, woody capsule opening along middle.

Phylogeny and related plants:   Macrocarpaea belongs to the Helieae (Struwe et al., 2002). Together with Tachia and Chorisepalum (and possibly Zonanthus) Macrocarpaea form a monophyletic clade supported by all genera having pollen shed as monads (single pollen grains). 

Economic uses:  No economic uses are known.

Notes: Moth-pollination occurs in Macrocarpaea sodiroana (J-M Torres, personal observation).

Read more about Macrocarpaea apparata, the Apparating moon-gentian.

Selected species (synonyms in parenthesis) and their distribution:

Macrocarpaea angelliae  Ecuador
Macrocarpaea apparata (images) Ecuador 
Macrocarpaea arborescens (images) Ecuador
Macrocarpaea autanae Weaver Venezuela
Macrocarpaea bubops Ecuador
Macrocarpaea jensii Ecuador
Macrocarpaea lenae Ecuador
Macrocarpaea luna-gentiana Ecuador
Macrocarpaea marahuacae (images) Venezuela 
Macrocarpaea neblinae Maguire & Steyerm. Venezuela 
Macrocarpaea noctiluca (images)  Ecuador
Macrocarpaea piresii Maguire Brazil
Macrocarpaea rugosa Steyerm. Venezuela 
Macrocarpaea sodiroana (images Ecuador
Macrocarpaea subsessilis Ecuador 
Macrocarpaea vasculosus Venezuela 


References and publications

Ewan, J. 1948. A revision of Macrocarpaea, a neotropical genus of shrubby gentians. Contr. U. S. Natl. Herb. 29: 209-251.

Gilg, E. 1895. Gentianaceae. Pp. 50-180. In: A. Engler & K. Prantl, editors. Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien, vol. 4(2). Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig.

Grant, J. R. & L. Struwe. 2000. Morphological evolution and neotropical biogeography in Macrocarpaea (Gentianaceae: Helieae). Amer. J. Bot. 87 (suppl.): 131. (abstract)

Grant, J. R. & L. Struwe. 2001. Macrocarpaeae Grisebach (Gentianaceae) Species Novae seu notabiles Neotropicae I: An introduction to the genus Macrocarpaea and three new species from Colombia, Ecuador, and Guyana. Harvard Pap. Bot. 5: 521-530.

Grant, J. R. & L. Struwe. 2003. De Macrocarpaeae Grisebach (ex Gentianaceis) speciebus novis III: Six new species of moon-gentians (Macrocarpaea, Gentianaceae: Helieae) from Parque Nacional Podocarpus, Ecuador. Harvard Papers in Botany 8 (1): 61-81. (pdf)

Grant, J. R. & R. E. Weaver, Jr. 2003. De Macrocarpaeae Grisebach (ex Gentianaceis) speciebus novis IV: Eleven new species of Macrocarpaea (Gentianaceae: Helieae) from Central and South America, and the first report of the presence of stipules in the family. Harvard Papers in Botany 8 (1): 83-109. (pdf)

Maguire, B. & B. M. Boom. 1989. Gentianaceae, part 3. Pp. 2-56. In: B. Maguire & collaborators, editors. The Botany of the Guayana Highland – Part XIII. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 51.

Nilsson, S. 1968. Pollen morphology in the genus Macrocarpaea (Gentianaceae) and its taxonomical significance. Sv. Bot. Tidskrift 62: 338-364.

Pringle, J. S. 1995. Gentianaceae. Pp. 1-131. In: G. Harling & L. Andersson, editors. Flora of Ecuador, vol. 159A. Department of Systematic Botany, Gothenburg University, Göteborg.

Robyns, A. & S. Nilsson. 1970. Macrocarpaea browallioides (Ewan) A. Robyns & S. Nilsson, comb. nov. (Gentianaceae). Bull. Jard. Bot. Natl. Belg. 40: 13-15.

Struwe, L., J. W. Kadereit, J. Klackenberg, S. Nilsson, M. Thiv, K. B. von Hagen, & V. A. Albert. 2002. Systematics, character evolution, and biogeography of Gentianaceae, including a new tribal and subtribal classification. Pp. 21-309. In: L. Struwe & V. A. Albert (eds.), Gentianaceae: Systematics and Natural History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Struwe, L., P. J. M. Maas, O. Pihlar, & V. A. Albert. 1999. Gentianaceae. Pp. 474-542. In: P. E. Berry, K. Yatskievych, & B. K. Holst, editors. Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana, vol. 5. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis. (images)

Weaver, R.E., Jr. 1974. The reduction of Rusbyanthus and the tribe Rusbyantheae (Gentianaceae). J. Arnold Arbor. 55: 300-302.




©  Lena Struwe, 2003


© Gentian Research Network, 2002-2011.
For corrections and additions, contact Lena Struwe at