Ericales

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The Ericales are a large and diverse order of dicotyledons, including for example tea, persimmon, blueberry, Brazil nut, and azalea. The order includes trees and bushes, lianas and herbaceous plants. Together with ordinary autophytic plants, the Ericales include chlorophyll-deficient myco-heterotrophic plants (e. g. Sarcodes sanguinea) and carnivorous plants (e. g. genus Sarracenia).

Many species have five petals, often grown together.

Mycorrhiza is an interesting property, frequently associated with the Ericales. Indeed, the symbiosis with root fungi is quite common among the order representatives, and there are even three kinds of it which can be found exclusively among Ericales (namely, ericoid, arbutoid and monotropoid mycorrhiza). In additional, some families among the order are notable for their exceptional ability to accumulate aluminum (Jansen et al., 2004).

Ericales are a cosmopolitic order. Areas of distribution of families vary largely - while some are restricted to tropics, others exist mainly in Arctic or temperate regions. The entire order contains over 8000 species, of which the Ericaceae account for 2000-4000 species (by various estimates).

Economic importance

The most profitable plant in the order is tea (Camellia sinensis) from the Theaceae family. The order also includes some edible fruits, including kiwi fruit (Actinidia deliciosa), persimmon (genus Diospyros), blueberry, huckleberry and cranberry, Brazil nut, and Mamey sapote. The order also includes shea (Vitellaria paradoxa), which is the major dietary lipid source for millions of sub-Saharan Africans. Many Ericales species are cultivated for their showy flowers: well-known examples are azalea, rhododendron, camellia, polyanthus, cyclamen, phlox, and busy Lizzie.

Classification

The following families are typical of newer classifications:

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