Minute granules of sporopollenin, called orbicules, can be observed on the innermost tangential and/or radial walls of secretory tapetum cells. Orbicules were investigated in 62 species (50 genera) of Apocynaceae s.l. using light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Orbicules were found in 43 species (34 genera) distributed amongst the subfamilies Rauvolfioideae, Apocynoideae, Periplocoideae, and in the genus Riocreuxia (Aselepiadoideae). Absence of orbicules is apparent in Secamonoideae and Asclepiadoideae (except Riocreuxia). The orbicule types described are based on observed morphological and ultrastructural variation. Of the six orbicule types previously described, Type I and Type 11 orbicules are lacking. In the majority of species, Type III orbicules were recorded in addition to Types IV, V and VI. In this study we suggest that embedded Type VI orbicules are more derived. A correlation between orbicule typology and evolutionary tendencies in Apocynaccae s.l. palynology was found. A trend was observed from the presence of Type III orbicules in the majority of species belonging to the basal group of genera characterized by colporate to porate single pollen grains, or 3-6-porate tetrads, towards the more derived embedded Type VI orbicules in the more advanced Periplocoideae genera with multiporate tetrads or pollinia. Orbicule data have proven not to be useful for evaluating tribal delimitation within the Apocynaceae s.l. contrary to the Rubiaceae and Loganiaceae s.l. (C) 2002 Annals of Botany Company.