Sparingly branched shrubs or small trees, or climbing, rarely (extra-Mal.) herbaceous, glabrous or hairy, often prickly. Leaves pinnate to tripinnate, usually with leaflets at the insertion of the lateral pinnae; Inflorescence a terminal panicle; Fruit a fleshy drupe;
Asia-Tropical:, Borneo ‒ present; Jawa (Jawa ‒ present); Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia ‒ present); Philippines (Philippines ‒ present); Sulawesi (Sulawesi ‒ present); Sumatera (Sumatera ‒ present) East Asia: present Lesser Sunda Is: present North America: present Northern America: Sumba: present West New Guinea: present
More than 30 spp. in North America (S. to Mexico) and East Asia, 6 spp. in Malesia: Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Java, Lesser Sunda Is. (Sumba), Borneo, Celebes, Philippines, and West New Guinea.
For a discussion of specific distinctions see van Steenis, l.c. 391. , treated some species that extend into Malesia. Merrill considered that the climbing habit and recurved spines of Acanthophora justified its separation as a distinct genus, but more recent authors have not agreed.
Harms - in E. & P., Nat. Pfl. Fam. 3. 1894: 56
Steen. - in Bull. Bot. Gard. Btzg. 1948: 390
Bth. - in B. & H., Gen. Pl. 1. 1865: 936
Linne, Sp. Pl. 1753: 273
Hutch. - in Gen. Fl. Pl. 1967: 63
Stone - in Gard. Bull. Sing. 1977: 134
Boerl. - in Handl. 1890: 629
Steen. - in Bull. Bot. Gard. Btzg. 1948: 391
DC. - in Prod. 1830: 257
Philipson - in Gard. Bull. Sing. 1977: 97
Miq. - in Ann. Mus. Bot. Lugd.-Bat. 1863: 6