Description from Flora of China
Trees or shrubs evergreen, dioecious (occasionally monoecious); bud scales persistent. Leaves 2-ranked, pectinately arranged and leafy branchlets elliptic to obdeltoid in outline, decussate or ± opposite, sessile or subsessile, basally somewhat twisted; blade linear, linear-lanceolate, or occasionally lanceolate, midvein green abaxially, elevated on both surfaces, stomatal bands 2, abaxial, each comprising 11-24 rows of stomata, usually appearing white because of powdery covering, as wide as or usually wider than midvein, marginal bands green, as wide as or narrower than midvein, resin canal abaxial. Pollen cones borne on branches of preceding year, aggregated into capitula of 6-8; capitula axillary, solitary, pedunculate or subsessile; peduncle usually with several spirally arranged scales, rarely naked; cones subtended by 1 ovate or triangular-ovate bract; microsporophylls 4-16, each with (2 or)3(or 4) pollen sacs; pollen nonsaccate. Seed cones borne from axils of terminal bud scales, 1-6(-8) per bud, long pedunculate; floral axis with several pairs of decussate bracts each bearing 2 erect, axillary ovules. Seeds ripening in 2nd year, drupelike, completely enclosed by succulent aril, ovoid, ellipsoid, or globose, apex mucronate. Cotyledons 2. Germination epigeal.
One genus and eight to eleven species: China, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam; six species (three endemic) in China.
There is currently debate about whether the Cephalotaxaceae should continue to be recognized as separate from the Taxaceae. Cephalotaxus appears to form a distinct lineage related to Taxaceae; however, it differs from that family in its seed cones, which have several 2-ovulate bracts, instead of a single fertile, 1-ovulate bract. The total number of distinct species of Cephalotaxus is quite open to question and much in need of detailed biosystematic study.
Cheng Wan-chün, Fu Li-kuo & Chao Chi-son. 1978. Cephalotaxaceae. In: Cheng Wan-chün & Fu Li-kuo, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 7: 423-436.
(Authors: Fu Liguo (傅立国 Fu Li-kuo) , Li Nan (李楠) ; Robert R. Mill)