Description from Flora of China
Trees or shrubs, sometimes woody vines with aerial roots, rarely perennial herbs, hermaphroditic, andromonoecious or dioecious, often with stellate indumentum or more rarely simple trichomes or bristles, with or without prickles, secretory canals present in most parts. Leaves alternate, rarely opposite (never in Chinese taxa), simple and often palmately lobed, palmately compound, or 1-3-pinnately compound, usually crowded toward apices of branches, base of petiole often broad and sheathing stem, stipules absent or forming a ligule or membranous border of petiole. Inflorescence terminal or pseudo-lateral (by delayed development), umbellate, compound-umbellate, racemose, racemose-umbellate, or racemose-paniculate, ultimate units usually umbels or heads, occasionally racemes or spikes, flowers rarely solitary; bracts usually present, often caducous, rarely foliaceous. Flowers bisexual or unisexual, actinomorphic. Pedicels often jointed below ovary and forming an articulation. Calyx absent or forming a low rim, sometimes undulate or with short teeth. Corolla of (3-)5(-20) petals, free or rarely united, mostly valvate, sometimes imbricate. Stamens usually as many as and alternate with petals, sometimes numerous, distinct, inserted at edge of disk; anthers versatile, introrse, 2-celled (or 4-celled in some non-Chinese taxa), longitudinally dehiscent. Disk epigynous, often fleshy, slightly depressed to rounded or conic, sometimes confluent with styles. Ovary inferior (rarely secondarily superior in some non-Chinese taxa), (1 or)2-10(to many)-carpellate; carpels united, with as many locules; ovules pendulous, 2 per locule, 1 abortive; styles as many as carpels, free or partially united, erect or recurved, or fully united to form a column; stigmas terminal or decurrent on inner face of styles, or sessile on disk, circular to elliptic and radiating. Fruit a drupe or berry, terete or sometimes laterally compressed, occasionally vertically compressed, exocarp fleshy; pyrenes cartilaginous or membranous, often laterally compressed. Seeds 1 per pyrene, embryo small, endosperm uniform or ruminate.
The two endemic genera are Sinopanax and Tetrapanax.
Chinese genera of economic importance include Aralia, Eleutherococcus, Heteropanax, Panax, and Tetrapanax (medicinal), Hedera (ornamental), Fatsia and Schefflera (medicinal and ornamental), and Kalopanax (timber).
Recent phylogenetic studies (Plunkett and Lowry, Molec. Phylogen. Evol. 19: 259-276. 2001; Wen et al., Syst. Bot. 26: 144-167. 2001; Chandler and Plunkett, Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 144: 123-147. 2004; Mitchell and Wen, Taxon 53: 29-41. 2004; Plunkett et al., S. Afr. J. Bot. 70: 371-381. 2004) have shown that Hydrocotyle Linnaeus belongs to Araliaceae, despite being traditionally included in Apiaceae (see Fl. China 14: 14-18. 2005).
Diplopanax Handel-Mazzetti was at one time placed in Araliaceae but is now regarded as a member of Mastixiaceae (see Fl. China 14: 231-232. 2005).
Hoo Gin & Tseng Chang-jiang. 1978. Araliaceae. Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 54: i-ix, 1-210.
About 50 genera and 1350 species: widespread in tropical and subtropical regions of both hemispheres, much less diverse in temperate areas; 23 genera (two endemic, one introduced) and 180 species (82 endemic, seven introduced) in China.
(Authors: Xiang Qibai (向其柏 Shang Chih-bei); Porter P. Lowry II)