Description from Flora of China
Trees or shrubs, also woody climbers or perennial herbs, resiniferous secretory ducts in bark and foliage, plants turpentine-smelling, blackening when wounded, hermaphroditic, polygamo-dioecious or dioecious. Leaves often clustered distally, alternate, exstipulate, simple, trifoliolate or imparipinnate. Inflorescences terminal or axillary thyrsoids or panicles; floral subtending bracts small, or sometimes large, membranous and fused to pedicel (Dobinea). Flowers small, actinomorphic, 3-5-merous, bisexual to unisexual; receptacle sometimes elongate and barrel-shaped (Mangifera). Perianth usually double (single in Pistacia or lacking in female flowers in Dobinea); sepals fused basally and lobed (bractlike in Pistacia), imbricate or valvate in bud, caducous or persistent. Petals free or adnate basally to extended receptacle, imbricate or valvate, deciduous to persistent. Stamens in 1 or 2 whorls, 1 (Anacardium, Mangifera), several, or all fertile; filaments slender, sometimes connate basally (Anacardium); anthers ovoid or oblong, introrse, dorsi- or basifixed, longitudinally dehiscent, 2-celled with 4 pollen sacs. Disk usually distinct, intrastaminal to extrastaminal, fleshy, crenulate, stipe-shaped or 5-10-notched, round, flattened or subcupular. Ovary superior, sometimes half inferior or inferior (Pegia and Semecarpus), either (a) 1-carpellate and 1-locular, (b) syncarpous and 2-5-locular (rarely more), (c) 4-6-carpellate and apocarpous (Buchanania), or (d) 5-carpellate and incompletely connate (Dracontomelon); stigmas 1-5 (rarely more), ± distinct, each locule with one apotropous ovule, usually with one carpel developing to maturity. Fruit drupaceous or dry and indehiscent (Dobinea), sometimes borne on enlarged fleshy hypocarp formed by pedicel and receptacle (Anacardium and Semecarpus) or fused to membranous accrescent floral subtending bract (Dobinea), composed of 1-5, rarely more, cells, each containing 1 seed; epicarp thin; mesocarp usually fleshy, fibrous and resinous; endocarp crustaceous to bony.
Both of the families Pistaciaceae and Podoaceae (with Dobinea) have been included here in the Anacardiaceae based on the molecular studies conducted by Pell (Molecular Systematics of the Cashew Family [Anacardiaceae]. Ph.D. Dissertation, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University. 2004). The two families are separated mainly based on their aberrant reductions in the perianth. The molecular trees clearly show that they are both nested within the Anacardiaceae. In accordance with figs. 3-10 (pp. 66-75) in Pells’s dissertation (loc. cit.) and current taxonomy, we have included Pistacia in the Rhoeae and Dobinea in a tribe of its own, the Dobineeae.
Some species of Dobinea, Pistacia, Rhus, and Toxicodendron reach altitudes above 2000 m in Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan.
Several representatives for the family are economically important, delivering products such as fruits and nuts, timber, lacquers, and tannins. In China, the resinous sap of Toxicodendron vernicifluum and T. succedaneum is called Chinese lacquer. Rhus chinensis is the host plant of the aphid Melaphis chinensis that produces the "Chinese gall," which in turn is a rich source of gallic acid. Anacardium occidentale and Mangifera indica are widely cultivated as fruit trees, and Pistacia chinensis yields a natural yellow dye. Several plants have ornamental value, such as Cotinus coggygria var. cinerea, which produces spectacular red leaves in the autumn.
The resinous sap of Anacardiaceae hardens and turns black when exposed to the air. Some species in the family, especially of Toxicodendron and Semecarpus, can cause severe dermatitis after contact, especially in persons who have been sensitized by long-term exposure to the plants.
Ming Tien lu. 1980. Anacardiaceae. In: Cheng Mien & Ming Tien lu, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 45(1): 66-135.
About 77 genera and 600 species: mainly in tropical, subtropical, and temperate areas, with the center of diversity in the Malesian region; 17 genera (one introduced) and 55 species (18 endemic, two introduced) in China.
(Authors: Min Tianlu (闵天禄 Ming Tien-lu); Anders Barfod)