The genus Erisma is found in the Amazonian basin and in the Guianas; it comprises 16 species as defined in this paper, all of them typical Hylaean forest trees. The genus was first described by Rudge in 1805; its name is a greek word meaning “a cause of dispute”. Rudge may have wanted it to refer to the romantic story of the type-specimen of his Erisma floribundum, a specimen belonging to a set of plants collected by the Frenchman Martin in French Guiana and captured by British privateers on its way to Paris. The name was also well suited to indicate the difficult taxonomic position of the genus.