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.
Flowers hermaphrodite or unisexual, spicate, racemose, umbellate or capitate
Leaves alternate or rarely opposite, simple or compound; stipules often adnate to the petiole
Seeds with copious endosperm and small embryo
Ovary inferior, 1–or more-celled; styles free or connate; ovules solitary in each cell, pendulous from the inner angle
Petals valvate or slightly imbricate, usually free