Description from Flora of China
Plants usually woody, or herbs, sometimes lacking chlorophyll. Leaves spiral, sometimes decussate, margin often toothed. Inflorescence racemose; bracteoles paired, basal. Flowers (4 or)5-merous. Calyx imbricate. Corolla connate, imbricate. Stamens 10, sometimes with spurs or awns, dehiscing by pores, pollen in tetrads, rarely single. Ovary superior or inferior, placentation axile, rarely parietal, often many ovules per locule. Style ± as long as corolla, slender. Fruit a capsule or berry, rarely a drupe; calyx persistent.
The Monotropoideae are here included in the Ericaceae; previously in FRPS (56: 157–216. 1990), they were treated as the Pyrolaceae. Chiogenes, recorded from China in FRPS (57(3): 69–71. 1991), is here included in Gaultheria. Over the last half century, the Empetraceae have usually been separated from, but closely associated with, the Ericaceae. In their ecology, leaf morphology and insertion, rusts, embryology, stamen anatomy, etc., they largely agree with that family. Molecular data place Empetrum and its relatives firmly within the Ericaceae, and in particular within the subfamily Ericoideae, in agreement with phytochemical and palynological data, and there they are best recognized as a separate tribe. There are distinctive features of the Empetreae that were responsible for their past familial status, e.g., reduced perianth with separate members, low ovule number, enlarged stigmas, etc. However, these are likely to be derived features associated with wind pollination. See Kron et al. (Bot. Rev. 68: 335–423. 2002) and the recent treatment of the Ericaceae by Stevens et al. (in Kubitzki, Fam. Gen. Vasc. Pl. 6: 145–194. 2004).
Several genera and many species are ornamentals. Some fruits of Vaccinium in N China are sweet and edible, but of no particular value to humans. Some species of Chamaedaphne, Craibiodendron, Leucothoë, Lyonia, Pieris, and Rhododendron contain more or less toxic diterpenes, which are harmful to humans or domestic animals.
About 125 genera and 4000 species: widely distributed in temperate and subarctic regions, also at high elevations in tropical regions; 22 genera and 826 species (524 endemic) in China.
(Authors: Fang Mingyuan (方明渊) , Fang Ruizheng (方瑞征 Fang Rhui-cheng) , He Mingyou (何明友)1, Hu Linzhen (胡琳贞 Hu Ling-cheng)1, Yang Hanbi (杨汉碧 Yang Han-pi) , Qin Haining (覃海宁)3, Min Tianlu (闵天禄 Ming Tien-lu)2; David C. Chamberlain , Peter F. Stevens , Gary D. Wallace , Arne Anderberg)
Fang Rhuicheng, Yang Hanbi & Chin Tsenli. 1999. Ericaceae (1). In: Fang Rhuicheng, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 57(1): 1–213; Hu Wenkuang, Hu Lincheng, Fang Mingyuan & He Mingyou. 1994. Ericaceae (2). In: Hu Lincheng, Fang Mingyuan, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 57(2): 1–438; Hsu Tingzhi, Gao Baochun, Fang Rhuicheng & Huang Shuhua. 1991. Ericaceae (3). In: Fang Rhuicheng, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 57(3): 1–207; Chou Yiliang & Zhou Ruichang. 1990. Pyrolaceae. In: Fang Wenpei & Hu Wenkuang, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 56: 157–216; Ming Tien lu. 1980. Empetraceae. In: Cheng Mien & Ming Tien lu, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 45(1): 60–62.