The Order Malvales includes about 6000 species within nine families. Malvales are flowering plants that are known mainly for their wood which is useful in many ways. This order contains a very diverse group of flowering plants which live mainly in the tropics and subtropics.
Malvales are mostly shrubs and trees with the following characteristics: leaves with palmate venation (often three principal veins arising from the base of the leaf blade), mucilage canals within the tissues (i.e. slime in Okra), stellate (star-shaped) hairs on the vegetative parts of the plant and stipules (leaf-like structures at the base of the leaf stalk). In addition, members of the core Malvales have nectaries composed of glandular hairs, usually on the calyx, and seeds with cyclopropenyl fatty acids.
The most common family is Malvaceae, which has more than 4000 species. The second most common is Thymelaeaceae with 750 species. A lot of Malvales Families live all over in the tropics and subtropics with limited expansion into temperate and chilly regions. In Madagascar, there are three endemic Families of Malvales (Sphaerosepalaceae, Sarcolaenaceae and Diegodendraceae).
A lot of species in the Family Malvaceae are known for their wood. The Ochroma is known for its lightness, and the Tilia is a great wood for carving. The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) is used as an ingredient for chocolate. Kola nuts (genus Cola) are known for their large quantities of caffeine content, and were formerly used in the preparation of many different cola drinks.