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Clethra arborea1.jpg
Clethra arborea flowers
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Clethraceae
Genus: Clethra
Type species
Clethra alnifolia

See text

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby spice'

Clethra is a genus of flowering shrubs or small trees described as a genus by Linnaeus in 1753.[1][6]

Clethra is one of two genera in the family Clethraceae (the other being Purdiaea). The species may be evergreen or deciduous, and all bear flowers in clusters (inflorescences).


Clethra species are native to a variety of habitats, including swamps, woodland, and rocky sites[7] from temperate to tropical climates in eastern and southeastern Asia, Malesia, North and South America, and one species (C. arborea) on the island of Madeira.[2]

Fossil record[edit]

Several fossil fruits and seeds of †Clethra cimbrica have been described from middle Miocene strata of the Fasterholt area near Silkeborg in Central Jutland, Denmark.[8]


The number of species accepted varies between different authorities depending on taxonomic interpretation, but with a recent trend to reduce the number recognised as distinct. The recent Flora of China (series)[9] has cut the number accepted for China from 35 to seven species, and the US Department of Agriculture[10] recognises only two in the United States, synonymising C. tomentosa with C. alnifolia. The following are accepted by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families:[2]


  1. ^ a b Linnaeus, Carl von. 1753. Species Plantarum 1: 396 in Latin
  2. ^ a b c Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, retrieved 9 October 2016
  3. ^ Tropicos, search for Junia
  4. ^ Tropicos search for Volkameria
  5. ^ Tropicos search for Tinus
  6. ^ Tropicos, Clethra L.
  7. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
  8. ^ Angiosperm Fruits and Seeds from the Middle Miocene of Jutland (Denmark) by Else Marie Friis, The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters 24:3, 1985
  9. ^ Flora of China Vol. 14 Page 238 桤叶树属 qi ye shu shu Clethra Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 396. 1753.
  10. ^ US Department of Agriculture plants profile

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Clethra at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Clethra at Wikispecies