Description from Flora of China
Trees, erect or scandent shrubs, lianas, evergreen or deciduous; stems sometimes producing rootlets (Euonymus spp.), sometimes thorny (Maytenus spp.), rarely with buttressed trunks. Leaves simple, alternate or opposite, petiolate; leaf blade laminar, venation pinnate, secondary veins reticulate, margins entire, crenate, serrate, or dentate; stipules small and caducous, or estipulate. Inflorescences axillary or terminal, few to many flowered, cymose, thyrsoid, racemose, fasciculate, or flowers solitary, rarely paniculate. Flowers actinomorphic, bisexual or unisexual; perianth (3 or)4- or 5-merous; sepals and petals free. Disk intrastaminal, stamens on disk, or extrastaminal, annular, margins upturned, pulvinate, or cupular, conspicuous, rarely obscure (Microtropis spp.), entire, lobed, or angular. Stamens 3-5, alternate with petals; anther (1 or)2-celled, basifixed to dorsifixed, dehiscing longitudinally or obliquely, introrse, extrorse, or latrorse. Ovaries 3-5, superior to half-inferior, often partially immersed in disk, completely or incompletely 2-5-locular, placentation axile, ovules erect, axile, or pendulous, ovules (1 or)2(or 3 or more) per locule; style terminal, simple, short to absent; stigma simple or lobed. Fruit a loculicidally dehiscent capsule, schizocarp of 2-5 indehiscent mericarps, drupe, berry, or samara with a single surrounding wing, rarely an indehiscent capsule or nut with lateral style, pericarp bony, leathery, chartaceous, or fleshy, capsules smooth, angular, deeply lobed, transversely flattened and lobed to base, or connate, rarely prickly, laterally winged. Seeds 1-12, smooth or occasionally furrowed, albuminous or exalbuminous, sometimes winged, wing membranous, basal, exarillate or aril basal to completely enveloping seed, aril membranous, fleshy, rarely mucilaginous; cotyledons flat, foliaceous or thick, connate, germination epigeous. 2n = 8, 12, 14.
Some species are used as ornamentals (Celastrus, Euonymus, and Tripterygium) and/or medicines, including traditional Chinese medicines (Celastrus, Euonymus, Maytenus, and Tripterygium).
Plagiopteron Griffith is treated in this volume as a separate family, the Plagiopteraceae; see the comments under that family (p. 493). Dipentodon Dunn and Perrottetia Kunth are also treated in this volume (pp. 494-495) as comprising a separate family, the Dipentodontaceae, following Zhang and Simmons (Syst. Bot. 31: 122-137. 2006). On the other hand, Bhesa is included here in the Celastraceae, although Zhang and Simmons (loc. cit.) found that it belongs in the Malpighiales, where it comprises a separate lineage sister to the W African Centroplacus. Hippocrateaceae (Loeseneriella, Pristimera, and Salacia) are included here in the Celastraceae following Simmons et al. (Amer. J. Bot. 88: 313-325. 2001).
Pao Shih-ying. 1981. Hippocrateaceae. In: Fang Wen-pei, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 46: 1-14; Cheng Chingyung, Ma Jinshuang, Huang Puhua, Kao Tsoching, Ma Qisheng. 1999. Celastraceae (excluding Dipentodon and Perrottetia). In: Cheng Chingyung & Huang Puhua, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 45(3): ii-x, 1-218.
About 97 genera and 1194 species: mainly in the tropics and subtropics, some in temperate regions; 14 genera (one endemic, one introduced) and 192 species (120 endemic, two introduced) in China.
(Authors: Ma Jinshuang (马金双), Zhang Zhixiang (张志翔), Liu Quanru (刘全儒), Peng Hua (彭华); A. Michele Funston)