Shrubs , evergreen or deciduous, scandent or twining, glabrous. Leaves alternate, simple, without stipules, petiolate. Leaf blade often fragrant (especially when bruised or crushed), translucent-dotted, ovate to lanceolate, pinnately veined, thin to leathery, margins entire to remotely dentate. Flowers unisexual, staminate and pistillate on same [different] plants, axillary, solitary, pedunculate; peduncle bracteolate; perianth hypogynous; tepals 5-20, imbricate, distinct, in 2[-3] series, all similar but innermost more petaloid. Staminate flowers: stamens 4-80, hypogynous, distinct or connate partially or completely into fleshy, globose or discoid mass, in 1-several series; anthers basifixed, 4-locular, longitudinally dehiscent; pollen 3- or 6-aperturate; pistil absent. Pistillate flowers: pistils simple, 6-300, distinct, closely set in few to many series on globose to elongate axis, attached obliquely; placentation marginal to pendulous; ovules [1-]2-3[-10] per locule; stigmatic surface adaxial; stamens absent. Fruits aggregates of berries, produced on elongate axis. Seeds [1-]2-3[-10] per berry, flattened; endosperm copious, oily; embryo small.
Vines, woody, monoecious or dioecious. Stipules absent. Leaves alternate or ± clustered, simple, petiolate. Flowers axillary to leaves on ultimate branches or in axils of fugacious bracts near base of ultimate shoots, generally solitary but occasionally in pairs or clusters to 8, unisexual, hypogynous, with few to numerous parts generally spirally arranged, pedunculate. Perianth segments not as separate sepals and petals, distinct, outermost and innermost sometimes reduced. Staminate flowers: stamens 4-80, ± distinct, distinct but basally connate, or connate as a fleshy synandrium or tightly compressed; anthers basifixed (except Schisandra plena), thecae dehiscing by longitudinal slits. Pistillate flowers: carpels 12 to ca. 300, developmentally conduplicate; stigmatic crest as unvascularized "pseudostyle," sometimes modified as peltate "pseudostigma"; ovary unilocular; ovules 2-5(-11) per ovary, anatropous, ventrally attached or pendulous, 2-tegmic, crassinucellar. Fruit aggregates of apocarps; receptacle ellipsoid or elongate; apocarps with fleshy pericarp. Seeds 1-5(or more) per apocarp, ventrally attached or pendulous, laterally flattened; endosperm copious, oily.