Herbs or shrubs [trees] , perennial, evergreen or deciduous, sometimes rhizomatous. Stems with or without spines. Leaves alternate, opposite, or fascicled, simple, 2-3-foliolate, or 1-3-pinnately or 2-3(-4)-ternately compound; stipules present or absent; venation pinnate or palmate. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, racemes, cymes, umbels (or umbel-like), spikes, or panicles, or flowers solitary or in pairs, flowers pedicellate or sessile. Flowers bisexual, inconspicuous or showy, radially symmetric; stipitate glands absent (except in Vancouveria ); sepaloid bracteoles 0-9; perianth sometimes absent ( Achlys ), more frequently present, 2- or 3-merous, or sepals and petals intergrading ( Nandis ); sepals 6, distinct, often petaloid and colored, not spurred; petals 6-9, distinct, plane or hooded; nectary present; stamens 6; anthers dehiscing by valves or longitudinal slits; ovary superior, apparently 1-carpellate; placentation marginal or appearing basal; style present or absent, sometimes persistent in fruit as beak. Fruits follicles, berries, or utricles. Seeds 1-50, sometimes arillate; endosperm abundant; embryo large or small; mature seeds elevated on elongating stalk in Caulophyllum.
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.
Sepals and petals similar or dissimilar, in 2 to several series, free, hypogynous, imbricate or the outer valvate, caducous, rarely absent
Stamens 4–9, opposite the petals, hypogynous, free; anthers 2-thecous, opening lengthwise or by valves
Ovary 1 -locular; ovules few, ascending, or more rarely numerous; style short or absent
Leaves alternate or radical, simple or compound
Flowers bisexual, in panicles, racemes, fascicles or solitary
Seeds with copious endosperm and small or long embryo; cotyledons short
Sepals and petals usually similar, in 2-several series, hypogynous, free, imbricate or the outer valvate, rarely absent
Stamens 4–9, opposite the petals, hypogynous, free; anthers 2-thecous, opening by longitudinal slits or valves
Ovary 1-locular; ovules basal or ventral, anatropous, few or sometimes numerous
Shrubs or herbs, the latter often with tubers or rhizomes
Leaves alternate or radical, simple or compound; stipules absent
Flowers variously arranged in panicles, racemes, clusters or solitary, regular, hermaphrodite
Fruit a berry, achene or capsule
Ernst, W. R. 1964. The genera of Berberidaceae, Lardizabalaceae, and Menispermaceae in the southeastern United States. J. Arnold Arbor. 45: 1-35. Loconte, H. 1993. Berberidaceae. In: K. Kubitzki et al., eds. 1990+. The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. 2+ vols. Berlin etc. Vol. 2, pp. 147-152. Loconte, H. and J. R. Estes. 1989b. Phylogenetic systematics of Berberidaceae and Ranunculales (Magnoliidae). Syst. Bot. 14: 565-579. Meacham, C. A. 1980. Phylogeny of the Berberidaceae with an evaluation of classifications. Syst. Bot. 5: 149-172. Ohwi, J. 1965. Flora of Japan (in English).... Washington. Nowicke, J. W. and J. J. Skvarla. 1981. Pollen morphology and phylogenetic relationships of the Berberidaceae. Smithsonian Contr. Bot. 50: 1-83. Terebayashi, S. 1985. The comparative floral anatomy and systematics of the Berberidaceae. I. Morphology. Mem. Fac. Sci. Kyoto Univ., Ser. Biol. 10: 73-90. Terebayashi, S. 1985b. The comparative floral anatomy and systematics of the Berberidaceae. II. Systematic considerations. Acta Phytotax. Geobot. 36: 1-13.