Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Apocynaceae, Dogbane Family

The Apocynaceae or Dogbane Family includes forb/herbs, shrubs trees, stem succulents and vines. The family name Dogbane comes from the Greek word Apocynum meaning "dog-away" a reference to the fact that some taxa were used as dog poison.

Distribution is broad and includes parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, India and Indo-China and North and South America. The family was named because of the plant Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) an American species growing throughout most of North America. Many species are tall trees found in tropical forests, but some grow in tropical dry (xerophytic) environments.

According to The Plant List, Apocynaceae have 410 plant genera and 5,556 accepted species names. These numbers now include the Milkweeds of the sub-family Asclepiadoiedeae. This large family includes the following five subfamilies: Apocynoideae, Asclepiadoideae, Periplocoideae, Rauvolfioideae and Secamonoideae.

Family characteristics; members of this family typically have simple leaves and often showy flowers. Many species have milky latex and many others are poisonous if ingested. Specifically, members of the genus Apocynum and Nerium (Oleander)) are poisonous. Other species of significance include the collectible Adenium and the succulent and spiny Pachypodium of Madagascar and Africa.

In Arizona, for Apocynaceae there are 43 genera and 170 accepted taxa overall. Plants are generally perennial herbs, vines or shrubs mostly with milky sap. Leaves typically opposite, some may be whorled or alternate, simple, entire and the stipules are generally absent or vestigial. Flowering stems (inflorescence) are often racemose or umbelliform; fruits typically a follicle.

Family profile completed: 05/05/2015 - updated 01/12/2020
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; [accessed 12 January 2020
Steven. P. McLaughlin Vascular Plants of Arizona: Apocynaceae - JANAS 27(2): 164-168. 1994.
'Apocynaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 December 2019, 04:07 UTC, [accessed 12 January 2020]
'Apocynum cannabinum', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 December 2019, 02:57 UTC, [accessed 12 January 2020]
'Apocynaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 December 2019, 04:07 UTC, [accessed 6 January 2020]