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The family was described for the first time by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu in 1789. Currently, a number of traditionally accepted families (Dialypetalanthaceae, Henriqueziaceae, Naucleaceae, and Theligonaceae) are included in Rubiaceae following molecular phylogenetic research by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group.

Subfamilies and tribes[edit]

Rubiaceae were "classically" divided into two subfamilies, Coffeoideae, which have placentas bearing a single ovule, and Cinchonoideae, which have more than one ovule per placenta. However, as early as 1893 Hans Solereder identified this system as artificial, since individuals with a single species of Tarenna had placentas with one or more ovules. During the twentieth century other characteristics were used to delineate subfamilies including the distribution of raphides, the absence of endosperm or heterostyly. On this basis, three, five or eight subfamilies were recognised. In 1988, Elmar Robbrecht divided the Rubiaceae into four subfamilies: Ixoroideae, Cinchonoideae, Antirheoideae and Rubioideae. While the limits of Rubioideae remained almost unchanged in the face of molecular studies, Antirheoideae was shown to be polyphyletic, while Ixoroideae was broadened and Cinchonoideae narrowed.[11] Currently three subfamilies (Cinchonoideae, Ixoroideae and Rubioideae) and 52 tribes are recognised. Elmar Robbrecht and Jean-Franois Manen, however, have proposed that only two subfamilies be recognised, an expanded Cinchonoideae (that includes Ixoroideae, Coptosapelta and Luculia) and Rubioideae.[11] One tribe, Coptosapelteae Bremek. ex Darwin, and one genus, Luculia Sweet, have not been placed within a subfamily and are sister to the rest of Rubiaceae.[12] Cinchonoideae Raf. Chiococceae Benth. & Hook.f. Cinchoneae DC. Guettardeae DC. Hamelieae A.Rich. ex DC. Hymenodictyeae Razafim. &
B.Bremer Hillieae Bremek. ex Darwin Isertieae A.Rich. ex DC. Naucleeae DC. ex Miq.

Ixoroideae Raf. Airospermeae Kainul. & B.Bremer Alberteae Hook.f. Aleisanthieae Mouly, J.Florence &
B.Bremer Augusteae Kainul. & B.Bremer Bertiereae (K.Schum.) Bridson Coffeeae DC. Condamineeae Hook.f. Cremasporeae Benth. Crossopterygeae F.White ex Bridson Gardenieae DC.


Greeneeae Mouly, J.Florence &


Henriquezieae Bremek. Ixoreae A.Gray Jackieae Korth. Mussaendeae Hook.f. Octotropideae Bedd. Pavetteae Dumort. Posoquerieae Delprete Retiniphylleae Hook.f. Sabiceeae Bremek. Scyphiphoreae Kainul. & B.Bremer Sipaneeae Bremek. Steenisieae Kainul. & B.Bremer Trailliaedoxeae Kainul. & B.Bremer Vanguerieae Dumort.

For a full list, see List of Rubiaceae genera According to the World Checklist of Rubiaceae, 611 genera and 13,143 species were accepted as of 2009.[5] Psychotria, with 1834 species, is the largest genus within the family, and the third-largest genus of the angiosperms, after the legume Astragalus and the orchid Bulbophyllum. Twenty-nine other genera also have more than 100 species. On the other hand, 211 genera are monotypic. Together these account for more than a third of all genera in Rubiaceae, but only around 1% of all species.[12]

Relationships of the three subfamilies of Rubiaceae, together with the tribe Coptosapelteae and the genus Luculia. The placement of these two groups relative to the three subfamilies has not been fully resolved.[12] Rubiaceae Rubioideae Ixoroideae Cinchonoidea e Coptosapeltea e