Description from Flora of China
Herbs, perennial or biennial, rarely annuals [or shrubs, absent from China], with a characteristic fetid odor caused by monoterpenoid and sesquiterpenoid ethereal oils; vestiture of white, multicellular hairs; taprooted or rhizomatous; roots adventitious. Leaves opposite, basal and cauline, less frequently all basal, simple to pinnatisect or imparipinnate, entire to variously toothed. Inflorescences cymose, simple or compound dichasia or monochasia, bracteate and bracteolate. Flowers perfect or rarely unisexual. Calyx 5-lobed (Nardostachys), reduced to inconspicuous teeth (Patrinia), or setaceous, plumose, and pappuslike (Valeriana). Corolla connate, regular to irregular, sometimes 2-lipped; tube often gibbous (nectariferous) near base; limb (3-)5-lobed; corollas of female flowers 1/3-1/2 size of those of perfect or male flowers. Stamens 1-4, inserted near base of corolla tube, weakly to strongly exserted in bisexual and male flowers, vestigial and included in female flowers; anthers versatile, 4-sporangiate, opening by longitudinal slits. Ovary inferior; carpels 3, 1 fertile, with a solitary, pendulous, apical ovule, 2 sterile; style solitary; stigma entire or 3-lobed. Fruit a cypsela (but commonly referred to as an achene), sometimes winged; sterile locules often reduced; calyx persistent. Seed 1, embryo large, straight, and without endosperm.
Chiu Lien-ching & Wang Han-jin. 1986. Valerianaceae. In: Lu An-ming & Chen Shu-kun, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 73(1): 5-44.
Twelve genera and ca. 300 species: nearly cosmopolitan; three genera and 33 species (18 endemic) in China.
(Authors: Hong Deyuan (洪德元); Fred R. Barrie, Charles D. Bell)