Evergreen or deciduous trees. Twigs of two types, long shoots and short shoots, or twigs forming long shoots only. Leaves alternate, in whorl-like clusters at the end of branches, simple, serrulate, pinnately veined; stipules absent. Flowers in subterminal, many-flowered pendulous spikes on short shoots or in terminal raceme-like cymes. Perianth present or absent (but the flower commonly subtended by several small scaled at the apex of the pedicel). Sepals 4, imbricate, or sepals absent; petals absent. Stamens 4 or numerous. Carpels 4–11(–17), laterally fused, but distally free, the backs of carpels protruding and nectariferous, ovules 5 or 6 or 25–30; stigmas free, with a decurrent stigma; placentation marginal. Ovary superior. Fruit a laterally fused, distally free whorl of follicles.
Euptelea polyandra Siebold & Zucc. from Japan has occasionally been placed in this family in the past, but is now considered to belong to its own family Eupteleaceae. It has shiny buds, free, stalked carpels and winged fruits, the leaves are toothed. It is rarely cultivated although occasionally offered as a rare plant for cool gardens where it displays attractive autumn colouring.
2 genera, 2 species.
Specimens NSW: Sydney (Royal Botanic Garden Sydney), Mt Tomah ('Joalah', Skyline Rd). VIC: (Dandenongs, 'Pirianda', about 3 m tall in 1984).
Now includes Tetracenteaceae.
Source: (1997). Trochodendraceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 1. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.
Updated by: Val Stajsic, March 2018