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Shrubs, small trees, or sometimes woody climbers, monoecious or dioecious. Leaves digitate, (l-)3(-5)-foliolate. Inflorescences axillary, usually either simple or composed of a few long and slender, racemi-form thyrses, sometimes paniculate. Flowers unisexual, obliquely zygomorphic. Sepals 4, free, imbricate, outer 2 distinctly narrower than the inner ones. Petals 4, nail-shaped to spathulate, inside above the claw with a 2-lobed scale (much smaller than to nearly as big as the blade) which is usually bearded. Stamens 8, rarely fewer, all with about the same length, exserted in male flowers; Ovary deeply 2- (or 3-)lobed, 2- (or 3-) celled, 1 ovule per cell; Fruits drupaceous, mostly consisting of 1 mericarp only, globular to obovoid, thin-walled, mostly almost glabrous when ripe. Seeds without aril.


Probably monotypic, though up to 250 species may be accepted. Cir-cumtropical, in some regions penetrating into the Subtropics. See .


Closely related to the Central and South American genus Thouinia Sm., which differs mainly by its winged fruits.


L. 1932 – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 98. p 455
Radlk. 1909 – In: Sitzungsber. Math.-Phys. Cl. Königl. Bayer. Akad. Wiss. München. p 201
L. 1754: Gen. Pl., ed. 5. p 164
Leenh. 1968 – In: Blumea. p 301