Herbs, sometimes subshrubs or shrubs, annual or perennial, usually aromatic. Stems and branches usually 4-angled. Leaves opposite, rarely whorled or alternate, simple to pinnately dissected or compound, without stipules. Inflorescences generally compound, sometimes flowers solitary and axillary; verticillasters 2- to many flowered, subtended by leaves or bracts. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, rarely subactinomorphic, bracteolate or not. Calyx persistent, 5-toothed, 2-lipped; upper lip 3-toothed or entire (deciduous in Scutellaria); lower lip 2- or 4-toothed; tube sometimes hairy annulate inside. Corolla limb usually 2-lipped; upper lip 2-lobed and lower 3-lobed, rarely upper lip entire and lower 4-lobed, also rarely limb (4- or) 5-lobed; tube hairy annulate inside. Stamens epipetalous, 4 or 2, free, rarely filaments connate, sometimes one staminodial; anther 1- or 2-celled, usually dehiscing longitudinally; disc persistent. Ovary superior, 2-celled and each cell 2-ovuled and style subterminal, or ovary 4-parted and each lobe 1-ovuled and style gynobasic (from bases of ovary lobes) with 2-cleft apex. Fruit usually 4 dry nutlets. Seeds with or without endosperm.
Approximately 3500 species in 220 genera, distributed worldwide, but mostly in the Mediterranean region and SW Asia. China has 807 species in 96 genera.
Cantino (Taxon 40: 441. 1991) suggests that Cardioteucris cordifolia C. Y. Wu, originally placed in the Lamiaceae, is identical with Caryopteris siccanea W. Smith (Verbenaceae, q.v.). Although the original author agrees with the identity of Cardioteucris cordifolia and Cardiopteris siccaneae, he believes that the generic placement of Cardioteucris is in the Lamiaceae because of its 2-lipped calyx and deeply 4-divided ovary. The last feature is aberrant in Caryopteris and all other Verbenaceae.
Wu Cheng-yih & Li Hsi-wen, eds. 1977. Labiatae. Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 65(2): 1-649, 66: 1-647.