The Celastraceae are trees and shrubs comprising about 50 genera and 800 species that are sometimes climbing or vining. The leaves are simple and alternate or opposite; stipules are small and caducous or absent. The flowers are bisexual or sometimes functionally unisexual, actinomorphic, and are small and often greenish. The calyx comprises 4 or 5 usually basally connate sepals. The corolla is rarely absent or more commonly consists of 4 or 5 distinct petals. The androecium consists of 4 or 5 or rarely 10 distinct stamens that alternate with the petals. The gynoecium is a single compound pistil of 2-5 carpels, a single short style, and a superior or rarely half inferior ovary with 2-5 locules, each containing usually 2 axile ovules. An annular nectary disk surrounds and is usually adnate to the ovary. The fruit is a capsule, berry, samara, or drupe.

Each "thumbnail" image below is linked to a larger photograph.

Catha sp. In this species the annular nectary disk is visible as a light greenish ring around the darker green ovary. The alternate stamens arise from just outside the disk. The flowers in the lower right exhibit 3-lobed stigmas and indicate the 3-carpellate nature of the gynoecium in this example.
Celastrus sp. Note greenish, 4-parted flowers with conspicuous nectary disk and alternate stamens.
Elaeodendron orientale. In this species the ovary is completely buried in the nectary disk. The developing fruit in the background clearly reveals the superior nature of the ovary.
Perrottetia sandwicensis, olomea. The flowers of this Hawaiian native member of the family are reddish but are still very small. The disk is visible as a yellow ring around the emergent style.
Salacia naumanii.
Celastraceae.  Note minute stipules in first photo; alternate stamens and conspicuous nectary disk in second photo.
Brexia madagascariensis, brexia. Tree from Madagascar with leathery leaves and clusters of greenish, five-parted flowers, each about 3/4 of an inch across. Fringed staminodes alternate with the fertile stamens. [Sometimes placed in Brexiaceae, Grossulariaceae, Saxifragaceae]

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