The family is seen as a loosely defined one (s.l.) with around 18 (15 to 22) genera or as a newer
strictly defined (s.s.) one with only 5 genera.
The families removed from Phytolaccaceae s.l. were placed in a number of families including
Petiveriaceae which contains the Rivina genus.
Mabberley recognises Petiveriaceae with 9 genera but many sources still use the loosely
defined Phytolaccaceae which I will follow.
Phytolaccaceae is known as the Pokeweed family.
They are mostly herbs with some shrubs, trees and lianas (woody vines).
The leaves can be alternate (spiral) or opposite but when close they can appear to be in whorls.
There are usually no stipules but when present they are very small.
Leaves may have a petiole or be sessile.
The simple blades have a wavy edge and they may have simple hairs.
Terminal, axillary or leaf-opposed inflorescences may be a single flower or a variously arranged cluster.
The small flowers may be bi- or uni-sexual.
There is a small bract and 2 small bracteoles.
The radially symmetric flowers may have a gynophore and a hypogynous disc.
There are no petals and the 4 or 5 (10) green tepals are sometimes called sepals as they may be partly coloured.
There are 4 or 5 (many) stamens in 1 or 2 whorls.
The filaments may be free or joined at the base.
The dorsifixed anthers open inwards via longitudinal slits.
The almost always superior ovaries have 1 to 12 (16 or 18) free or fused carpels.
They have the same number of locules with 1 ovule with basal placentation in each.
There are up to 16 or 18 styles that are free or partly fused.
The fruit are of various types and may be dehiscent or indehiscent.
There are berries, loculicidal capsules, drupe-like ones, schizocarps or samaras.
The sepals usually persist.