Shrubs or trees, rarely climbers. Leaves alternate, simple or imparipinnately compound, exstipulate. Inflorescence terminal or axillary, of few-flowered pedunculate cymes or panicles, rarely a simple raceme. Flowers bisexual or unisexual (plants then polygamo-dioecious), zygomorphic. Sepals (3-)4-5, free or basally connate, imbricate, persistent. Petals (3-)4-5(-6), mostly free, equal or unequal, antisepalous, imbricate. Stamens as many as petals, equal or unequal, antipetalous, all or only 2 larger fertile, the rest staminodial, anthers ovoid-globose, dithecous, with flattened connectives. Disc angular or cupular, dentate or lobed. Carpels 2-3, completely or slightly syncarpous; ovary superior, 2-3-locular, each locule with 2 semi-anatropous ovules on axile placentae; styles 2-3, free or united, stigma simple or 2-3-lobed. Fruit a subglobose drupe, 1-2-locular, 1-seeded, endocarp bony, exocarp fleshy, rarely dry and leathery. Seeds with or without endosperm.
A family of 3 genera and about 160 species; distributed from S.E. Asia to China and Japan and Mexico to Brazil in the new world. Represented in Pakistan by 2 genera, each having a single species.
This interesting family, showing probable connections with several diverse groups, was first established by Blume (Mus. Lugd. Bot. 1:368.1851) who placed it in the immediate neighbourhood of Menispermaceae indicating, at the same time, affinities with Lardizabalaceae. Hooker & Thomson (Fl.Ind. 1:206-207. 1855) believe it to be intermediate between Schizandraceae and Menispermaceae.
Airy Shaw (in Willis, Dict. Fl. Pl. & Ferns ed. 7.711.1966), following End¬licher, has split the family into Meliosmaceae consisting of Meliosma and Ophiocaryon and Sabiaceae with only Sabia.
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to the United States Department of Agriculture for financing this research under P.L. 480 and to Messrs. B.L. Burtt, Ian C. Hedge and Miss J. Lamond of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, for going through the manuscript and giving valuable suggestions.