Trees or shrubs, exceptionally lianas; Leaves spirally arranged, pari- or imparipinnate, sometimes simple, 1- to more than 40-jugate, petiole and/or rachis winged or not, with or without pseudo-stipules. Inflorescences terminal, axillary, rami-, or cauliflorous, rarely sticky. Flowers unisexual, actinomorphic. Sepals 4 or 5 (rarely 3 or 6), free, imbricate, outer 2 (or 1) mostly distinctly smaller, mostly at least inner ones partly petaloid, entire or partly denticulate. Petals 4 or 5 (rarely 3, 6, or 7), shorter to longer than sepals, mostly distinctly clawed; Stamens mostly c. 8 (4-18), in male flowers not to distinctly exserted; Ovary sessile to short-stipitate, lobed or not, 2- or 3(-4)-celled; Ovules 1 per cell, subbasal to median, placenta with an obturator. Fruits sessile to short-stipitate, not to distinctly lobed, drupaceous; Seeds with a shining brown to black, glabrous or sometimes hairy testa;
Asia-Temperate:, Hainan (Hainan ‒ present) Asia-Tropical:, Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka ‒ present) Madagascar: present NW Australia: present S and SE Asia: present Tropical Africa: present
24 species in tropical Africa, Madagascar, S and SE Asia from Sri Lanka to Hainan, Malesia, and NW Australia.
Several genera were combined into Lepisanthes by Leenhouts (l.c.). He subdivided the genus as follows (in brackets the number of species in Malesia):
- Subgenus Lepisanthes
- Section Lepisanthes (1)
- Section Hebecoccus (2)
- Subgenus Otophora
- Section Otophora (4)
- Section Pseudotophora (2)
- Section Anomotophora (2)
- Subgenus Erioglossum (2)
- Subgenus Aphania (3)
A few species have some value as ornamental trees. The wood of several species is used, but only few reach a sufficient size to have value as timber trees. Different parts of several species are of medicinal value. The fruits of some species are eaten, but only L. fruticosa and L. alata are planted for their fruits.