Herbs or shrubs, rarely trees, erect, rarely scandent, mostly glabrous, rarely dioecious. Leaves simple, alternate, entire; stipules absent or tiny. Inflorescences terminal, axillary, or leaf-opposed, racemose, cymose, panicled, or spicate. Flowers small, bisexual or rarely unisexual, actinomorphic, rarely zygomorphic. Tepals 4 or 5, persistent, free or connate at base, equal or unequal, imbricate in bud, green or sometimes other colored. Stamens 4 to many, inserted on a fleshy disk; filaments usually persistent, free or slightly connate at base; anthers 2-loculed, dorsifixed, longitudinally dehiscent. Ovary superior, globose; carpels 1 to many, free or connate; ovule solitary in each carpel, basal, campylotropous. Styles persistent, short or absent, erect or curved, as many as carpels. Fruit fleshy, a berry or drupe, rarely a capsule. Seeds reniform or oblate, small; testa membranous or hard and fragile, smooth or wrinkly; embryo large, curved, surrounding copious mealy endosperm.
Seventeen genera and ca. 70 species: widespread in tropical and temperate regions, especially in the neotropics and S Africa; two genera (one introduced) and five species (one endemic, two introduced) in China.
Lu Dequan. 1996. Phytolaccaceae. In: Tang Changlin, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 29: 14–20.