Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Simaroubaceae, the Quassia Family

The Simaroubaceae or Quassia family of flowering plants is a small family with less than 20 genera. Plants are mostly tropical and subtropical.

In North America than are approximately 11 genera with 15 accepted taxa overall. Arizona has two species; Ailanthus altissima, tree of heaven and Castela emoryi, Crucifixion Thorn. The Plant List describes 19 plant genera and 121 accepted species names.

Plants here are trees or shrubs, deciduous and often containing bitter quassinoids compounds; Leaves: alternate, rarely opposite, margins may be simple or pinnately compound; Inflorescence: variable from single flowers to panicle or racemes; Flowers: are actinomorphic, sepals and petals distinct or connate; Fruit: is a capsule, drupe or samara.

The family is known for medicinal plants and species used for furniture and flooring. The popular Tree-of-Heaven, Ailanthus altissima and Amargo, Quassia amara from South America are also well known. Amargo or Bitter-ash, Quassia amara, has properties for uses as an insecticide and food additive as well.

Tree-of-Heaven, Ailanthus altissima is an invasive tree in Arizona and in the southwestern United States. This plant is listed in New Mexico as a "noxious weed".

  • Castela emoryi, Crucifixion Thorn
  • Date Family Profile Completed: 08/28/2016
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database.[and all genera cited above - (accessed 08/28/2016).
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/28/2016).; Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health; Ailanthus altissima
    USDA; DOA; USFS, SW Region; "Field Guide for Managing Tree-of-Heaven in the Southwest."
    Porter, Duncan M., Sytsma, Kenneth J.; Sapindales Plant Order; Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016
    Brasher, Jeffrey W. 1999. Simaroubaceae, Simarouba, Quassia Family. Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science and Canotia 32(1).
    Hua Peng & Wm. Wayt Thomas; FOC Simaroubaceae; Vol. 11 Page 51, 98, 100; 12. (accessed 08/28/2016 ).
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Quassia amara', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 April 2016, 20:52 UTC, [accessed 29 August 2016]