Cannabaceae is a small family of flowering plants. As now circumscribed, the family includes about 170 species grouped in about 11 genera, including Cannabis (hemp, marijuana), Humulus (hops) and Celtis (hackberries). Celtis is by far the largest genus, containing about 100 species.
Cannabaceae is of the rose order (Rosales). Members of the family are erect or climbing plants with petalless flowers and dry, one-seeded fruits. Hemp (Cannabis) and hop (Humulus) are the only economically important species.
Other than a shared evolutionary origin, members of the family have few common characteristics; some are trees (e.g. Celtis), others are herbaceous plants (e.g. Cannabis).
Cannabaceae are often dioecious (distinct male and female plants). The flowers are actinomorphic (radially symmetrical) and not showy, as these plants are pollinated by the wind. As an adaptation to this kind of pollination, the calyx is short and there is no corolla. Flowers are grouped to form cymes. In the dioecious plants the masculine inflorescences are long and look like panicles, while the feminine are shorter and bear fewer flowers. The pistil is made of two connate carpels, the usually superior ovary is unilocular; there is no fixed number of stamens.
Classification systems developed prior to the 1990s, such as those of Cronquist (1981) and Dahlgren (1989), typically recognized the order Urticales, which included the families Cannabaceae, Cecropiaceae, Celtidaceae, Moraceae, Ulmaceae and Urticaceae, as then circumscribed. Molecular data from 1990s onwards showed that these families were actually embedded within the order Rosales, so that from the first classification by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group in 1998, they were placed in an expanded Rosales, forming a group which has been called “urticalean rosids”.
- Aphananthe Planch. (5 spp.)
- Cannabis L.—Hemp (1 sp.)
- Celtis L. (73–109 spp.)
- Chaetachme Planch. (1 sp.)
- Gironniera Gaudich. (6 spp.)
- Humulus L.—Hop (3 spp.)
- Lozanella Greenm. (2 spp.)
- Parasponia Miq. (5–10 spp.)
- Pteroceltis Maxim. (1 sp.)
- Trema Lour. (12–42 spp.)
Carbon dating has revealed that these plants may have been used for ritual/medicinal purposes in Xinjiang, China as early as 494 B.C.
Hop (Humulus lupulus) has been the predominant bittering agent of beer for hundreds of years. The flowers’ resins are responsible for beer’s bitterness and their ability to extend shelf life due to some anti-microbial qualities. The young shoots are used as vegetable.
Some plants in the genus Cannabis are cultivated as hemp for the production of fiber, as a source of cheap oil, for their nutritious seeds, or their edible leaves. Others are cultivated for medical or recreational use as marijuana. Several selectively bred “strains” have been produced for both higher and lower yields of THC, other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes with desired flavors or aromas, such as blueberry, strawberry, or even citrus.
Many trees in the genus Celtis are grown for landscaping and ornamental purposes.
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