Distribution of Myrtaceae:
The family contains 100 genera and 300 species out of which India contributes 116 species. The chief centres of distribution are Australia and America.
Economic Importance of Myrtaceae:
Some members of the family produce edible fruits e.g. Syzygium cumini (syn. Eugenia jambolana) (H. Jamun), Psidium guajava (Amrood) with edible fruits.
The essential oils are obtained by the steam distillation of leaves and branches of Eucalyptus species.
Syzygium caryophyllata (syn. Eugenia caryophyllata) yields the cloves of commerce. Clove oil (H. Laung ka tel) is extracted out of them.
Eucalyptus oil is used in influenza. It is mixed with clove oil and used in rheumatism. The roots of Eucalyptus are purgative. Clove oil is antipyretic and largely used in gum troubles. The leaves of S. cumini are used in indigenous medicine for dysentery.
The fruits of Myrtus communis are carminative and given in dysentery, diarrhoea, and rheumatism.
The wood of Eucalyptus and Psidium is used in engraving and making handles. In Australia the wood of Eucalyptus is used for railway sleepers, bridges and plywood industries.
Many plants viz., Callistemon, Myrtus, Melaleuca leucadendron, Tristania, Eucalyptus are cultivated for their showy nature in the gardens.
Affinities of Myrtaceae:
Engler and Prantl placed the Myrtaceae in the order Myrtiflorae along with other 17 families. Wettstein, Bessey, and Hutchinson adopted the name Myrtales. Bentham and Hooker placed the family Myrtaceae along with Lythraceae, Combretaceae and Onagraceae.
Bessey supported the view that the order Myrtales is allied to Rosales in many respects and probably derived from it. The order Myrtales is also allied to Umbellales in epigyny, the number of carpels and in pendulous ovules. Hence the systematic position of Myrtales is just before the Umbellales.