Description from Flora of China
Herbs, perennial, or shrubs, rarely small trees, evergreen or deciduous, sometimes rhizomatous or tuberous. Stems with or without spines. Leaves alternate, opposite, or basal, simple, or 1-3 × pinnately or 2-3 × ternately compound; stipules present or absent; venation pinnate or palmate. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, racemes, spikes, umbels, cymes, or panicles, or flowers fascicled or solitary. Flowers pedicellate or sessile, bisexual, radially symmetric; bracteoles or bracts present or absent. Perianth usually 2- or 3-merous, rarely absent. Sepals 6-9, often petaloid, distinct, in 2 or 3 whorls. Petals 6, distinct, flat, hooded, pouched, or spurred; nectary present or absent. Stamens 6, opposite petals; anthers 2-celled, dehiscing by valves or longitudinal silts. Ovary superior, apparently 1-carpellate; ovules numerous, rarely solitary; placentation marginal or appearing basal; style present or absent, sometimes persistent in fruit as a beak. Fruit a berry, capsule, follicle, or utricle. Seeds 1 to numerous, sometimes arillate; endosperm abundant.
Editors’ note. The Berberidaceae were to be published in Flora of China Volume 7 (2008). However, a problem with the treatment of Berberis necessitated postponing publication of the family until the present volume. See the comments under Berberis, below.
The family Berberidaceae presents an interesting, distinctive biogeography. The two species of Achlys Candolle are disjunctly distributed between E Asia and North America, with one in Japan and Korea and one along the west coast of North America. Caulophyllum and Diphylleia each contain three species; the former has one species in E Asia and two in North America, the latter has two in E Asia and one in North America. Sinopodophyllum and Plagiorhegma (if maintained separate from Podophyllum Linnaeus and Jeffersonia Barton, respectively) are endemic to E Asia, but their closest relatives, Podophyllum and Jeffersonia, are widely disjunct in E North America. Epimedium has a wide, fragmented range from Japan westward to Algeria; the nearest relative, Vancouveria C. Morren & Decaisne, is endemic to the Pacific Northwest of North America. Dysosma and Nandina are endemic to China, and Ranzania T. Ito is endemic to Japan.
Podophyllum cavaleriei H. Léveillé (Bull. Acad. Int. Géogr. Bot. 14: 142. 1914) is the replaced synonym of Pilea panzhihuaensis C. J. Chen et al. (Novon 17: 24. 2007) in the Urticaceae.
Ying Tsunshen. 2001. Berberidaceae. In: Ying Tsunshen, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 29: 50-310.
Seventeen genera and ca. 650 species: mainly in the north temperate zone and on subtropical mountains; 11 genera and 303 species (272 endemic, one introduced) in China; 17 additional species (15 endemic) are insufficiently known.
(Authors: Ying Junsheng (应俊生 Ying Tsun-shen); David E. Boufford, Anthony R. Brach)