Foremost students
of Malpighiaceae
Carl Linnaeus

23 May 1707 — 10 January 1778

The Swedish naturalist Linnaeus introduced a taxonomy for flowering plants called the "sexual system" by which genera are grouped strictly by the number and arrangement of the stamens and the number of styles. In spite of its shortcomings, the "sexual system" was widely embraced, because it provided for the first time a predictive classification. It was eventually superseded by the "natural system," most persuasively proposed by A. L. de Jussieu in his "Genera plantarum" (1789).

One of Linnaeus's main criteria for defining genera was the nature of the fruit, which led to some overly broad circumscriptions. Later authors divided many Linnaean genera, often returning to earlier, narrower definitions.

In his "Species plantarum" (1753), Linnaeus listed species now included in the Malpighiaceae in his category "Decandria Trigynia" [ten stamens, three styles]. He assigned them to three genera: Banisteria (fruit splitting into three samaras, each with a large dorsal wing), Malpighia (fruit fleshy), and Triopterys (=Mascagnia; fruit splitting into three samaras, each with a 3-lobed lateral wing). In the second edition (1762), he added Thryallis (fruit splitting into three cocci), which he based on a literature report. He mistakenly assumed Thryallis had only one style and thus placed it in "Decandria Monogynia."

Malpighia and Triopterys are still accepted genera, but two Linnaean species in Malpighia are now placed in Byrsonima. The name Thryallis was conserved for another genus [Thryallis Mart.], and the sole Linnaean species was transferred to Galphimia. Linnaeus's Banisteria comprises diverse elements; the species retained in Malpighiaceae are assigned to Heteropterys, Hiptage, and Stigmaphyllon. The name Banisteria is now a synonym of Heteropterys, which is conserved against it.