Thefamily of around 124 genera and 4,000 species (figures vary).
The 8 or 9 subfamilies include Ericoideae with 19 genera and 1790 species, Vaccinioideae
(50 genera with 1580 species) and Styphelioideae (35 genera with 545 species).
All the others have less than 100 species each (2 to 80).
Well known plants include the azaleas and rhododendrons, heaths and blueberries.
Most are shrubs (evergreen or deciduous) with some trees and herbs.
Various parts have hairs.
The simple leaves are mostly alternate, sometimes opposite or whorled.
The edge may be smooth or toothed and is sometimes rolled under.
Inflorescences may be terminal or axillary.
Flowers are bisexual and mostly radially symmetric.
There may be from several to no bracteoles.
The calyx usually consists of 4 or 5 sepals (2 – 7) that are fused at the base.
The 4 to 5 (3-7) petals in the corolla are also usually fused at the base.
The corolla is a tube, funnel or urn shape.
There are often twice as many stamens as there are petals but can be 2 to 16.
They are usually free of the corolla.
Anthers may have 2 or 4 appendages on their tips or backs.
The anthers dehisce apically by pores or outwards or sideways via short slits.
There is sometimes a nectary.
The superior or inferior ovary consists of 4 or 5 (1 to 12) joined carpels.
The locules are separate and each has numerous ovules.
There is usually only 1 hollow style that comes to the top of the corolla tube.
The fruit can be a fleshy berry, drupe or a capsule.
The small seeds are sometimes winged.