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Myrtle Family (Myrtaceae)

Broad Taxonomy, Economic Value

In both the New and Old Worlds many genera of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) unfurl their waxy, leathery leaves. Containing both trees and shrubs, this angiosperm family takes its name from the shrub Myrtus, which is found near the Mediterranean, in North Africa, and in South America.

Other well known genera from the Myrtaceae include ornamentals such as Leptospermum (Australian tea tree), Eucalyptus, Verticordia (feather flowers), and Calliostemon (bottle brush). Economically valuable taxa of the Myrtaceae also include Eucalyptus (timber, essential oils), Pimenta (allspice, pimento, bay rum), Psidium (guave), Szygium (cloves), and Melaleuca (timber). In fact, some of the tallest trees known from modern times were specimens of Eucalyptus estimated to have been over 350 ft (107 m) tall. If these reports are accurate, the eucalypts rival the redwoods (gymnosperms, Taxodiaceae) for the title of tallest trees. This could make Eucalyptus the tallest angiosperm, or flowering plant.

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