The Capparaceae (or Capparidaceae), commonly known as the caper family, are a family of plants in the order Brassicales. As currently circumscribed, the family contains 33 genera and about 700 species. The largest genera are Capparis (about 150 species), Maerua (about 100 species), Boscia (37 species) and Cadaba (30 species).

Caper (Capparis spinosa)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Capparaceae

See text


The Capparaceae have long been considered closely related to and have often been included in the Brassicaceae, the mustard family (APG, 1998), in part because both groups produce glucosinolate (mustard oil) compounds. Subsequent molecular studies[3] support Capparaceae sensu stricto as paraphyletic with respect to the Brassicaceae. However Cleome and several related genera are more closely related to members of the Brassicaceae than to the other Capparaceae. These genera are now either placed in the Brassicaceae (as subfamily Clemoideae) or segregated into the Cleomaceae. Several more genera of the traditional Capparaceae are more closely related to other members of the Brassicales, and the relationships of several more remain unresolved.[4] Based on morphological grounds and supported by molecular studies, the American species traditionally identified as Capparis have been transferred to resurrected generic names. Several new genera have also been recently described.[5]

Based on recent DNA-analysis, the Capparaceae are part of the core Brassicales, and based on limited testing, the following tree represent current insights in its relationship.[6]

core Brassicales


family Gyrostemonaceae

family Pentadiplandraceae

family Tovariaceae

family Capparaceae

family Cleomaceae

family Brassicaceae

family Emblingiaceae


  • Anisocapparis Cornejo & H.H.Iltis
  • Apophyllum F.Muell.
  • Bachmannia Pax
  • Belencita H.Karst.
  • Boscia Lam.
  • Buchholzia Engl.
  • Cadaba Forssk.
  • Calanthea (DC.) Miers
  • Capparicordis Iltis & Cornejo
  • Capparidastrum (DC.) Hutch.
  • Capparis L.
  • Cladostemon A.Braun & Vatke
  • Colicodendron Mart.
  • Crateva L.
  • Cynophalla J.Presl
  • Dhofaria A.G.Mill.
  • Dipterygium Decne.
  • Euadenia Oliv.
  • Hispaniolanthus Cornejo & H.H.Iltis
  • Maerua Forssk.
  • Mesocapparis (Eichl.) Cornejo & H.H.Iltis
  • Monilicarpa Cornejo & H.H.Iltis
  • Morisonia L.
  • Neocalyptrocalyx Hutch.
  • Neothorelia Gagnep.
  • Poilanedora Gagnep.
  • Puccionia Chiov.
  • Quadrella J.Presl
  • Ritchiea R.Br. ex G.Don
  • Sarcotoxicum Cornejo & H.H.Iltis
  • Steriphoma Spreng.
  • Thilachium Lour.[7]

Excluded genera

  • Borthwickia W.W.Sm. → Resedaceae
  • Cleome L.Cleomaceae
  • Cleomella DC. → Cleomaceae
  • Dactylaena Schrad. ex Schult.f. → Cleomaceae
  • Forchhammeria Liebm. → Stixaceae
  • Haptocarpum Ule → Cleomaceae
  • Koeberlinia Zucc. → Koeberliniaceae
  • Oxystylis Torr. & Frem. → Cleomaceae
  • Pentadiplandra Baill.Pentadiplandraceae
  • Podandrogyne Ducke → Cleomaceae
  • Polanisia Raf. → Cleomaceae
  • Setchellanthus Brandegee → Setchellanthaceae
  • Stixis Lour. → Stixaceae
  • Tirania Pierre → Stixaceae
  • Wislizenia Engelm. → Cleomaceae[8]
Additional genera to be excluded from the Capparaceae, according to Kers in Kubitzki
1. Genera that may be capparalean but do not fit within the Capparaceae
  • Neothorelia Gagnep.
2. Genera insufficiently known, but whose descriptions indicate they cannot belong to the Capparaceae
  • Borthwickia W.W.Sm. → Borthwickiaceae[6]
  • Keithia Spreng.
  • Poilanedora Gagnep.
3. Genera not treated in Kubitzki, but usually regarded as Capparaceae
  • Buhsia Bunge
  • Niebuhria DC.


  1. "Family: Capparaceae Juss., nom. cons". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-04-12. Archived from the original on 2012-09-21. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  2. Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x.
  3. (Hall et al., 2002, 2008)
  4. (Hall et al. 2004).
  5. (Cornejo & Iltis 2006, 2008a-e; Iltis & Cornejo, 2007; Hall, 2008).
  6. Su, Jun-Xia; Wang, Wei; Zhang, Li-Bing; Chen, Zhi-Duan (June 2012). "Phylogenetic placement of two enigmatic genera, Borthwickia and Stixis, based on molecular and pollen data, and the description of a new family of Brassicales, Borthwickiaceae" (PDF). Taxon. 61 (3): 601–611. doi:10.1002/tax.613009.
  7. "GRIN Genera of Capparaceae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 1999-12-16. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  8. "GRIN genera sometimes placed in Capparaceae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 2000-06-01. Retrieved 2011-01-31.

Further reading

  • Cornejo, X. & H. H. Iltis. 2006. New combinations in Capparaceae sensu stricto for Flora of Ecuador. Harvard Pap. Bot. 11(1): 17–18.
  • Cornejo, X. & H. H. Iltis. 2008a. Two new genera of Capparaceae: Sarcotoxicum and Mesocapparis stat. nov., and the reinstatement of Neocalyptrocalyx. Harvard Pap. Bot. 13(1): 103-116.
  • Cornejo, X. & H. H. Iltis. 2008b. New combinations in South American Capparaceae. Harvard Pap. Bot. 13(1): 117-120.
  • Cornejo, X. & H. H. Iltis. 2008c. Anisocapparis y Monilicarpa: dos nuevos géneros de Capparaceae de América del Sur. J. Bot. Res. Inst. Texas 2(1): 61-74.
  • Cornejo, X. & H. H. Iltis. 2008d. The reinstatement of Capparidastrum. Harvard Pap. Bot. 13(2): 229-236.
  • Cornejo, X. & H. H. Iltis. 2008e. A revision of Colicodendron Mart. (Capparaceae s.s.). J. Bot. Res. Inst. Texas, 2(1): 75-93.
  • Everitt, J.H.; Lonard, R.L.; Little, C.R. (2007). Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 0-89672-614-2
  • Hall, J. C., K. J. Sytsma and H. H. Iltis. 2002. Phylogeny of Capparaceae and Brassicaceae based on chloroplast sequence data. American Journal of Botany 89: 1826-1842 (abstract here).
  • Hall, J. C., H. H. Iltis and K. J. Sytsma. 2004. Molecular phylogenetics of core Brassicales, placement of orphan genera Emblingia, Forchhammeria, Tirania, and character evolution. Systematic Botany 29: 654-669 (abstract here).
  • Hall, J. C. 2008. Systematics of Capparaceae and Cleomaceae: an evaluation of the generic delimitations of Capparis and Cleome using plastid DNA sequence data. Botany 86: 682–696.
  • Iltis, H. H. & Cornejo, X. 2007. Studies in the Capparaceae XXX. Capparicordis, a new genus from the Neotropics. Brittonia 59: 246–254.
  • Kers, L. E. 2003. Capparaceae. In: Kubitzki, K. (Series Editor):The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, Vol.5: K. Kubitzki & C. Bayer (Volume Editors).Springer-Verlag Berlin, 36-56. ISBN 3-540-42873-9
  • Takhtajan, A. 1997. Diversity and classification of flowering plants. ISBN 0-231-10098-1
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