Description from Flora of China
Shrubs sometimes scrambling, trees, or woody climbers, evergreen or deciduous, dioecious, rarely monoecious or polygamo-monoecious [or monoclinous], usually armed [or exclusively unarmed]. Leaves alternate, odd-pinnately 3- to many foliolate or sometimes digitately 3-foliolate (occasional leaves even-pinnate, 2-foliolate, or 1-foliolate). Inflorescences terminal, axillary, or basal to leaves, paniculate, thyrsiform, corymbiform, racemose, or umbelliform. Perianth in 2 series and differentiated with 4 or 5 sepals and 4 or 5 petals or grading to 1 series and undifferentiated with 5-9 tepals. Sepals distinct or basally connate. Petals valvate or imbricate in bud. Stamens distinct, 4 or 5 in plants with sepals and petals, 3-8(-10) in plants with tepals, rudimentary or lacking in female flowers. Disk flattened, pulvinate, or columnar. Gynoecium 1-5-carpelled, rudimentary or lacking in male flowers; ovaries basally connate, otherwise ± contiguous or distinct, 1-loculed; ovules 2 per locule. Styles in compound gynoecium apical or subapical, coherent or contiguous to spreading-ascending or recurved; stigmas capitate, coherent or distinct. Style in simple gynoecium off-centered, erect or variously curved or bent; stigma capitate to peltate. Fruit follicles 1-5, distinct or basally connate, apex often with a stylar beak; abortive carpels, if any, often persistent. Seeds globose to ovoid, persistent in dehisced fruit; seed coat with a thick or rarely ± thin inner layer of dense black sclerenchyma and spongy-fleshy outer layer bounded externally by a shiny black or reddish pellicle; endosperm copious or rarely scant; embryo straight or ± curved; cotyledons ± orbicular to broadly elliptic, flattened or rarely plano-convex; hypocotyl superior.
Two hundred or more species: pantropical and extending to temperate latitudes in E Asia and E North America; 41 species (25 endemic) in China.
(Authors: Zhang Dianxiang (张奠湘); Thomas G. Hartley)