Deciduous or evergreen, armed or unarmed, monoecious or dioecious trees or shrubs rarely climbers, herbs or hemi-epiphytic, with a milky latex. Leaves petiolate simple, entire, serrate or lobed, palmately or pinnately 3-5-costate; stipules 2, lateral, fugaceous and leaving a distinct annular scar. Inflorescence axillary cymes usually in the form of racemes, often catkins, globose heads, spikes or hypenthodium. Flowers minute, unisexual, actinomorphic, hypogynous to epigynous. Sepals (2-3-) 4 (-6), occasionally absent, biseriate, free, or valvate or ± united, enveloping the carpel in female flowers, persistent. Petals absent. Stamens as many as sepals, often less, antisepalous, filaments or erect in bud, free with dithecous, versatile, longitudinally dehiscent anthers; pistillode present or absent in male flowers. Ovary bicarpellate, one carpel frequently abortive, superior or inferior, unilocular, ovule solitary, anatropous campylotropous, pendulous from the apex, rarely basal and upright; styles 2 (-1), filiform, simple or forked. Fruit a simple drupe, nut or achene, or sometimes sorosis or syconium. Seeds surrounded by endocarp, endospermous or exalbuminous; embryo mostly curved.
A family of c. 40 genera and c. 1400 species, distributed in tropical, subtropical and a few in temperate regions. Represented in Pakistan by 5 genera and, of which 16 are native.
Acknowledgements: we are grateful to Prof. E.J.H. Corner (Cambridge), Mr. I.C. Hedge (Edinburgh) and Dr. C.C. Berg (Utrecht) for going through the manuscript and offering suggestions for its improvement. The financial assistance received form the United States Department of Agriculture under P.L. 480 with the coordination of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, is thankfully acknowledged.