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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Simaroubaceae

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Sapindales

Nineteen genera and ninety-five species with a pantropical distribution, extending a little into temperate regions. Ailanthus altissima (Tree-of-heaven, Hemelboom) and Picrasma excelsa (Quassia, Bitter ash) are cultivated in the region.

There are no native species of this family in southern Africa. Kirkia used to be placed in the Simaroubaceae but is now in the family Kirkiaceae. Harrisonia abyssinica also used to be placed in this family but is now thought to belong to the Rutaceae (see Angiosperm Phylogeny website)

Genera cultivated in southern Africa

Information from Glen (2002). The species name is provided for genera that are represented by only one species in southern Africa.


Ailanthus altissima (Tree-of-heaven, Hemelboom) is native to China and Taiwan. It has been grown as an ornamental tree in South Africa but has now been given the status of a Category 3 invading plant. This means that you are only allowed to have this plant growing on your land if it was already planted in March 2001 and that it is not within 30 m of the 50 year flood line of a river, lake or any other water body.


Picrasma excelsa (Quassia, Bitter ash)

Native to the West Indies and Venezuela.



  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.