Description from Flora of China
Herbs, shrubs, or trees, sometimes climbing; indumentum of simple or T-shaped hairs and sessile globose glands. Leaves alternate, rarely opposite, petiolate or subsessile, often ill-defined, margin entire, serrate, or dentate, pinnately veined. Synflorescence terminal or axillary, paniculate, densely clustered to laxly corymbose, sometimes thyrsoid, racemelike, or reduced to solitary capitulum. Involucre bowl-shaped to narrowly cylindric; phyllaries imbricate, to 6-seriate, often with scarious margins, apex obtuse, acute, or acuminate into spinescent or threadlike tip, outer phyllaries shorter, inner occasionally caducous. Receptacle flat, areolate, naked or sometimes shortly hairy. Florets (1-)3-100+; corolla pink, purplish, rarely white, narrowly tubular, often glandular, with campanulate or campanulate-funnelform limb; lobes 5. Anthers hastate, obtusely auricled. Style branches subulate, puberulent. Achenes cylindric or obconical, mostly with (7-)10 well-defined ribs, less often 4- or 5-ribbed or angled, rarely terete, usually glandular between ribs, glabrous or shortly hairy, apex truncate, often callose at base. Pappus usually double, outer pappus of short bristles or narrow scales, occasionally absent, inner pappus of many scabrid-barbellate-plumose bristles, deciduous or persistent, often colored.
Robinson (Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington 112: 220-247. 1999; in Kadereit & C. Jeffrey, Fam. Gen. Vasc. Pl. 8: 149-175. 2007) has proposed the segregation of many smaller genera from Vernonia, with Vernonia s.s. restricted to ca. 17 species in North America. Most of his segregates can be rather difficult to delimit, and the placement of individual species is not always easy; so Vernonia continues to be used mostly in its old, very wide, sense. However, there are some segregates that are quite widely accepted. One of these, Distephanus, occurs in China and is recognized in this Flora. The Chinese species are divided below into informal groups corresponding to these potential segregate genera.
Vernonia andersonii C. B. Clarke (Compos. Ind. 27. 1876; Decaneuropsis andersonii (C. B. Clarke) H. Robinson & Skvarla) is included in the following key on the basis of Robinson and Skvarla (Taiwania 55: 262. 2010). All the material so named seen so far by the present authors has proved to be V. cumingiana.
About 1,000 species in the wide sense: tropical Asia and Africa, North and South America; 31 species (eight endemic, one introduced) in China.