Description from Flora of China
Shrubs or trees, sometimes climbing shrubs, rarely herbs. Indumentum of simple, stellate, and/or other complex hairs. Leaves opposite or rarely whorled, without stipules, simple or 3-foliolate, less often palmately [or pinnately] compound. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, racemose, cymose, spicate, or thyrses. Flowers bisexual or polygamous by abortion, zygomorphic or rarely actinomorphic. Calyx persistent. Corolla 4- or 5- or more lobed; lobes usually spreading, aestivation overlapping. Fertile stamens inserted on corolla tube, alternate with lobes; filaments free; anthers dorsifixed, 1- or 2-locular, dehiscing by longitudinal slits or sometimes a circular pore. Ovary entire or 4-grooved, 2-8-locular; ovules 1 or 2 per locule, erect or pendulous. Style terminal, simple, entire or 2-cleft. Fruit a drupe or indehiscent capsule, sometimes breaking up into nutlets. Seeds (1 or)2-4, endosperm usually absent, seed coat thin; embryo straight, as long as seed; radicle short, inferior.
Some 91 genera and ca. 2000 species: primarily tropical and subtropical, 20 genera and 182 species in China.
Chinese genera of economic importance include Tectona (timber), Vitex (gum, oil, tannin, timber), Premna and Gmelina (fine wood), Callicarpa and Clerodendrum (ornamental), Callicarpa, Clerodendrum, Caryopteris, Premna, etc. (medicinal).
Some species are only known in China as introduced ornamentals. Among these are Vitex agnuscastus Linnaeus and Holmskioldia sanguinea Retzius. According to H. Keng (pers. comm.), Teijsmanniodendron coriaceum (C. B. Clarke) Kostermans, a species characterized by indehiscent 1-seeded dry fruits, was collected near the Guangxi-Vietnam border and is expected to be found in China.
The classification of Verbenaceae is in a state of flux, especially regarding its relationship to Lamiaceae. There is evidence to suggest a significant division between members of subfamily Verbenoideae, genera 1-5 in this account, and the remaining genera, including genera 6-20, which for convenience are here referred to as subfamily Viticoideae s.l. The latter are more closely allied to each other and to genera traditionally kept within Lamiaceae (including genera 1-8 in this Flora). Avicennia is often placed in a family of its own, but its affinities are clearly with Viticoideae, especially genera 17-19 in this account which have traditionally been placed in a separate subfamily, Symphorematoideae.
P'ei Chien & Chen Shou-liang, eds. 1982. Verbenaceae. Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 65(1): 1-229.
(Authors: Chen Shou-liang; Michael G. Gilbert)