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Starr 060325-6755 Zanthoxylum kauaense.jpg
Zanthoxylum kauaense
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Subfamily: Zanthoxyloideae
Genus: Zanthoxylum
Type species
Zanthoxylum americanum

Zanthoxylum is a genus of about 250 species of deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs and climbers in the family Rutaceae that are native to warm temperate and subtropical areas worldwide. It is the type genus of the tribe Zanthoxyleae in the subfamily Rutoideae. Several of the species have yellow heartwood, to which their generic name alludes.[3]


Plants in the genus Zanthoxylum are typically dioecious shrubs, trees or woody climbers armed with trichomes. The leaves are arranged alternately and are usually pinnate or trifoliate. The flowers are usually arranged in panicles and usually function as male or female flowers with four sepals and four petals, the sepals remaining attached to the fruit. Male flowers have four stamens opposite the sepals. Female flowers have up to five, more or less free carpels with the styles free or sometimes fused near the tip. The fruit is usually of up to four follicles fused at the base, each containing a single seed almost as large as the follicle.[4][5]


The genus Zanthoxylum was first formally described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus in the first volume of Species Plantarum.[6][7] The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek words ξανθός (xanthos), meaning "yellow," and ξύλον (xylon), meaning "wood." It is technically misspelled, as the z should be x, but botanical nomenclature does not allow for spelling corrections. It refers to a yellow dye made from the roots of some species.[8] The first species that Linnaeus described was Zanthoxylum trifoliatum, now regarded as a synonym of Eleutherococcus trifoliatus.[7][9] The once separate genus Fagara is now included in Zanthoxylum.[10]

Species list[edit]

The following is a list of species accepted by Plants of the World Online as of August 2020:[2]

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis fruits and foliage
Z. piperitum Fruits and seeds
Z. rhetsa bark in Pakke Tiger Reserve
Leafless Z. simulans showing its knobbed bark
Z. piperitum as a bonsai

Doubtful species[edit]

The genus Fagara has been sunk into Zanthoxylum, but as of September 2021, no name seemed to have been provided for the former Fagara externa, which was regarded as an unplaced name by Plants of the World Online.[11]

Fossil record[edit]

28 fossil seeds of †Zanthoxylum kristinae from the early Miocene, have been found in the Kristina Mine at Hrádek nad Nisou in North Bohemia, the Czech Republic.[12]


Many Zanthoxylum species make excellent bonsai and in temperate climates they can be grown quite well indoors. Zanthoxylum beecheyanum and Zanthoxylum piperitum are two species commonly grown as bonsai.[13]

Culinary use[edit]

The fruit of several species is used to make the spice Sichuan pepper. They are also used as bonsai trees. Historically, the bark was used in traditional medicine.[13]

Spices are made from a number of species in this genus, especially Zanthoxylum piperitum, Z. simulans, Z. bungeanum, Z. schinifolium Z. nitidum, Z. rhetsa, Z. alatum, and Z. acanthopodium. Sichuan pepper is most often made by grinding the husks that surround Z. piperitum berries.[14] In the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Goa in Western India, the berries of Z. rhetsa are sun-dried and added to foods such as legumes and fish. Because the trees bear fruit during the monsoon season, the berries are associated with the concurrent Krishna Janmashtami festival.[15]


Plants in the genus Zanthoxylum contain the lignan sesamin.

Species identified in Nigeria contains several types of alkaloids including benzophenanthridines (nitidine, dihydronitidine, oxynitidine, fagaronine, dihydroavicine, chelerythrine, dihydrochelerythrine, methoxychelerythrine, norchelerythrine, oxychelerythrine, decarine and fagaridine), furoquinolines (dictamine, 8-methoxydictamine, skimmianine, 3-dimethylallyl-4-methoxy-2-quinolone), carbazoles (3-methoxycarbazole, glycozoline), aporphines (berberine, tembetarine,[16] magnoflorine, M-methyl-corydine), canthinones (6-canthinone), acridones (1-hydroxy-3-methoxy-10-methylacridon-9-one, 1-hydroxy-10-methylacridon-9-one, zanthozolin), and aromatic and aliphatic amides.[17] Hydroxy-alpha sanshool is a bioactive component of plants from the genus Zanthoxylum, including the Sichuan pepper.


Zanthoxylum species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the engrailed (Ectropis crepuscularia).


  1. ^ "Zanthoxylum L." TROPICOS. Missouri Botanical Garden. Archived from the original on 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  2. ^ a b "Zanthoxylum". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  3. ^ Thomas, Val; Grant, Rina (2001). Sappi tree spotting: Highlands: Highveld, Drakensberg, Eastern Cape mountains. illustrations: Joan van Gogh; photographs: Jaco Adendorff (3rd ed.). Johannesburg: Jacana. p. 260. ISBN 978-1-77009-561-8.
  4. ^ "Genus Zanthoxylum". Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  5. ^ Hartley, Thomas G.; Wilson, Annette J.G. (ed.) (2013). Flora of Australia (Volume 26). Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Study. p. 74. Retrieved 17 August 2020.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Zanthoxylum". APNI. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  7. ^ a b Linnaeus, Carl (1753). Species Plantarum. Berlin: Junk, 1908. p. 270. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  8. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. Vol. IV R-Z. Taylor & Francis US. p. 2868. ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3.
  9. ^ "Zanthoxylum trifoliatum". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  10. ^ Beurton, C. (1994). "Gynoecium and perianth in Zanthoxylum s.l. (Rutaceae)". Plant Systematics and Evolution. 189 (3–4): 165–191. doi:10.1007/bf00939724. S2CID 2655415.
  11. ^ "Fagara externa Skottsb". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2021-09-13.
  12. ^ A review of the early Miocene Mastixioid flora of the Kristina Mine at Hrádek nad Nisou in North Bohemia, The Czech Republic, January 2012 by F. Holý, Z. Kvaček and Vasilis Teodoridis - ACTA MUSEI NATIONALIS PRAGAE Series B – Historia Naturalis • vol. 68 • 2012 • no. 3–4 • pp. 53–118
  13. ^ a b Wilbur, C. Keith, MD. Revolutionary Medicine 1700-1800. The Globe Pequot Press. Page 23. 1980.
  14. ^ Peter, K. V. (2004). Handbook of Herbs and Spices. Vol. 2. Woodhead Publishing. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-1-85573-721-1.
  15. ^ Bharadwaj, Monisha (2006). Indian Spice Kitchen. Hippocrene Books. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-7818-1143-9.
  16. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2017-12-17. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  17. ^ The Nigerian Zanthoxylum; Chemical and biological values. S. K. Adesina, Afr. J. Trad. CAM, 2005, volume 2, issue 3, pages 282-301 (article Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine)

External links[edit]


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