Rutaceae
The Rue Family
 
 
    The rue family consists of 120 genera and about 1,000 species of plants, which are distributed through the temperate and warmer regions of the world.  Probably the best known members of this family are those of the genera Citrus.  The orange, lemon, lime, kumquat, and grapefruit all belong to this genus.  2 arborescent plants of this family native to Florida are described below.
 
 

 Click on the links below for introductions to some of the trees of this family:
 
Hercules-club
hoptree
 
 
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Zanthoxylum clava-herculis
Hercules-club, toothache tree
 
 

Habit

    Hercules-club is a small tree, 30-40 feet in height, 12-18 inches in diameter.  it has a short bole and a crown of horizontally-spreading branches.
 

Leaves

    Leaves are odd-pinnately compound, alternate, and persistant through the winter.  The leaves are 5-9 inches long, with 7-9 sessile or nearly sessile leaflets.  Leaflets are somewhat leathery, oval-shaped, 1-3 inches long, with an acute or long tapered apex.  Leaflet bases are unequally rounded or wedge-shaped.  Leaflet margins have rounded teeth.  Leaflet surfaces are lustrous bright green above, paler and somewhat pubescent below.  Rachis are unwinged, stout, pubescent, and usually spiny.
 

Flowers
 
    The flowers are dioecious and in clusters.
 

Fruit
 
    Fruit is an ovoid, brown, wrinkled or roughened, 3- or 2-valved capsule, 1/4 inch long.  A single shiny, black seed hangs by a slender thread-like tissue from the husk. 
 

Twigs

    The twigs are stout, clothed with brownish pubescence, becoming gray-brown to yellow-brown and smooth in their second season.  The pith is whitish and homogeneous.
 

Bark

    The bark is very thin, light gray, with conical, corky ridges, 1 inch or more in diameter.
 

Habitat

    The Hercules-club inhabits sandy soils near the coast, riverbanks, and low, fertile valleys near streams in association with other hardwoods.  It is found on the Atlantic coastal plain from southeastern Virginia to southern Florida; west through the Gulf states, Lousiana, Arkansas, Texas, and to the Colorado River Valley.
 

Use

    The bark of this tree contains analgesics.  These compounds were used by African-Americans when seeking relief from the pains of rheumatism and toothache.
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 

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Ptelea trifoliata
common hoptree
 
 

Habit

    The common hoptree is a large shrub, or sometimes a small tree, 20-25 feet in height, 6-12 inches in diameter.  It has a straight, slender trunk and a broad, rounded crown, with numerous short, stout, erect, and ascending branches.
 

Leaves

    Leaves are trifoliate, alternate (rarely opposite), and deciduous.  The leaves are 4-6 inches long.  Leaflets are 2-4 inches long, nearly sessile, oval-shaped, with an acute apex.  Leaflet bases are wedge-shaped.  Leaflet margins are entire or remotely scalloped.  Leaflet surfaces are lustrous dark green above, paler and somewhat pubescent below.  Rachis are about as long as the terminal leaflet and swollen at the base.
 

Flowers
 
    The flowers are polygamous and in clusters.
 

Fruit
 
    Fruit is a 2- to 3-celled, circular, compressed, yellowish samara, with a broad, netted wing. 
 

Twigs

    The twigs are slender, yellowish-brown, exuding an unpleasant odor when bruised or broken.  The pith is rounded, whitish and homogeneous.
 

Bark

    The bark is thin, dark gray, and smooth with the exception of numerous wart-like bumps on the surface.
 

Habitat

    The common hoptree inhabits dry, rocky soils margining woodlands.  It is occasionally an understory species.  It is found from Long Island, N.Y. west through southern Minnesota to southeastern Nebraska; south to Florida and eastern Texas.
 

Use

    The hoptree is sometimes used as an ornamental.  Its fruit has been used as a substitute for real hops in brewing beer, and its bark contains compounds used in the preparation of tonics.
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 

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