Shrubs, small trees, or perennial herbs. Leaves simple; stipules small; petioles usually connate at base; leaf blade pinnately veined, margin serrate or crenate. Flowers small, bisexual or unisexual, arranged in spikes, capitula, or panicles; perianth present in female flowers or absent. Bisexual flowers: stamens 1 or 3, inserted on 1 side of ovary; filaments inconspicuous; connectives conspicuous, if stamens 3, connectives connate at base or free; anthers 1- or 2-loculed, longitudinally dehiscent; pistil 1, 1-carpelled; ovary inferior, 1-loculed; ovule 1, pendulous, orthotropous; style short or absent. Unisexual flowers: male flowers many, stamen 1; female flowers few; perianth 3-toothed, calyxlike, connate to ovary. Drupes ovoid or globose; exocarp ± fleshy; endocarp hard. Seeds containing rich endosperm and tiny embryo.
Five genera and ca. 70 species: tropical and subtropical regions; three genera and 15 species (nine endemic) in China.
The origin and distribution of the family have been discussed by Z. K. Zhou (Acta Bot. Yunnan. 15: 321-331. 1993).
Wu Kuo-fang. 1982. Chloranthaceae. In: Tseng Yung-chien, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 20(1): 77-97.