Annual (usually) or perennial herbs (usually), shrubs, trees or lianas; glandular, resinous; spines sometimes present. Leaves alternate, usually palmately divided, sometimes simple; stipules usually present. Inflorescence terminal or axillary, usually racemose, sometimes flat-topped, or flowers solitary (usually elongated in fruit), flowers sometimes solitary. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic or slightly zygomorphic; floral receptacle developing a gynophore, or developing an androphore and developing a gynophore; hypogynous disk present; sepals (2–)4(–6); petals (2–)4(–6), clawed; stamens 4–50, filaments free or basally fused to gynophore, staminodes sometimes present; nectaries sometimes associated with stamens; ovary superior, 1-carpellate (rarely with 2 carpels), bilocular, ovules 1–many per locule; style 1, stigma capitate; placentation parietal. Fruit capsular or nutlets (usually stipitate from elongation of gynophore), valvate, elongate (± dehiscent by 2 lateral valves, except in Polanisia), or schizocarps, indehiscent or dehiscent.
Plants glandular, resinous, leaves usually palmately divided, ovary borne on the gynophore,a ‘cruciferous’ ovary and fruit (placentation with a replum, and silicula or siliqua).
Subcosmopolitan, tropical and temperate regions. 20 genera and c. 270 species, 3 genera and c. 20 species (6 naturalised) in Australia.
Cleomaceae is sometimes included in the family Capparaceae.
Created by: Val Stajsic
Updated by: Val Stajsic, March 2018