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Description: Trees, shrubs, climbers, or scramblers [or rarely herbs], evergreen [or deciduous], glabrous or with branched (often stellate) or simple hairs (sometimes restricted to new growth).

Leaves alternate, [rarely opposite or whorled,] the bases often clasping the stem, simple, pinnately or palmately compound, margins entire or toothed or variously lobed; stipules usually inconspicuous, free [or fused to petiole] or absent.

Inflorescence rarely racemose, commonly a loose compound panicle or umbel, terminal [or rarely axillary]; flowers pedicellate or sessile, pedicels articulated near the receptacle or continuous with it. Flowers actinomorphic, usually small, bisexual or unisexual and then plants monoecious or dioecious, mostly 4- or 5-merous. Calyx lobed or reduced to a rim [or rarely absent], persistent in fruit. Petals 4 or 5 [rarely 3 or many], free or forming a calyptra [rarely forming a tube], usually not persistent in fruit, imbricate or valvate in bud. Stamens 4–many, often as many as petals and alternating with them, both inserted around an epigynous disk, usually not persistent. Ovary inferior or semi-inferior [or very rarely superior], surmounted by a secretory disk, commonly 2–5-locular [or 1 to many locular]; 1 ovule per loculus; styles as many as ovary loculi, free or variously fused, persistent.

Fruit laterally compressed or ± globose drupes or schizocarps; endosperm smooth or ruminate.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 43 genera, c. 1450 species, mainly tropical regions. Australia: c. 12 genera, c. 120 species, all States.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Araliaceae, Order: Apiales)

The family is included with the Apiaceae by some authors. A number of species, particularly of Hedera (Ivy) and Schefflera, are cultivated for their ornamental foliage or habit. The pithy stem tissue of Tetrapanax papyrifer (Hook.) K.Koch is the traditional material for making rice-paper. Hydrocotyle and Trachymene, in subfamily Hydrocotyloideae Link, were formerly placed in Apiaceae [THIS GROUP STILL TO BE INCLUDED IN THE ABOVE FAMILY DESCRIPTION].

Text by M.J. Henwood & R.O. Makinson; tentatively updated January 2017
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Hydrocotyle,    Trachymene

 Key to the genera 
1Leaves simple, margins entire to deeply lobed2
Leaves pinnately or palmately compound with 3 or more leaflets4
2Woody creeper (rarely shrubby with age), with aerial roots; mature leaves glabrous; styles fully fusedHedera
Shrubs or small trees; mature leaves densely hairy on lower surface; styles free
                       Back to 1
3Leaves entire, venation (when visible) pinnate; stipules absentAstrotricha
Leaves palmately lobed, venation palmate; stipules prominent, 2-ligulate
                       Back to 2
4Leaves 3-foliolate; climber or scrambling shrub with retrorse bristles; flowers sessile (or occasionally subsessile) in small racemose or paniculate inflorescencesCephalaralia
Leaves usually more than 3-foliolate; shrubs or trees (sometimes epiphytic as juveniles), glabrous or glabrescent; flowers sessile or pedicellate, solitary or in umbels
                       Back to 1
5Leaves pinnately compound (divisions to the third degree); flowers pedicellate, solitary or in umbelsPolyscias
Leaves palmately compound; flowers sessile in umbels
                       Back to 4

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