ERICACEAE A. L. de Jussieu (1789)
Vacciniaceae Lindley (1836)
Monotropaceae Nuttall (1818) nom. conserv.
Pyrolaceae Dumortier (1829) nom. conserv.
Siphonandraceae Klotzsch (1851)
Terrestrial or epiphytic shrubs, subshrubs, perennial herbs, or fleshy achlorophyllous mycotrophs, sometimes lianoid, rarely trees, sometimes rhizomatous or stoloniferous, commonly producing tannins, frequently with hypocotyl maturing as lignotuber up to 1 m diam.; indumentum of uni- to multicellular hairs, these sometimes glandular. Stems terete or subterete, rarely conspicuously winged. Leaves mostly alternate, but rarely opposite, verticillate, whorled, or lacking and then replaced by bract-like scales, simple, usually petiolate, exstipulate, newly unfolding leaves often a conspicuous red color; lamina coriaceous to membranous, evergreen to deciduous, the margin entire or sometimes inconspicuously serrulate-crenate, the venation pinnate, plinerved (with one or more pairs of basal lateral veins very conspicuous and running toward the apex), or mixed; leaf scars usually with a single vascular bundle scar, nodes usually with one trace and one gap. Inflorescences axillary or rarely terminal, sometimes long-pendent, racemose, paniculate, fasciculate, or flowers solitary, the parts often viscid or secretory in bud; individual flowers pedicellate or rarely sessile in axils of caducous to deciduous or persistent floral bracts, these sometimes conspicuously glandular; pedicel usually bibracteolate; bracteoles caducous or persistent, small or large. Flowers mostly hermaphrodite, but rarely functionally unisexual (more rarely plants dioecious), actinomorphic or slightly zygomorphic, mostly (3-)5(-7)-merous, typically obdiplostemonous, hypogynous or epigynous and with a typically biseriate perianth, typically without floral odors, rarely with extrafloral nectaries; calyx continuous or articulate with pedicel, synsepalous, rarely fleshy and accrescent to fruit, calyx tube terete or angled to winged, aestivation valvate, imbricate, or reduplicate; corolla membranous to thick-carnose, commonly sympetalous, or rarely polypetalous, cylindric, campanulate or urceolate, terete or angled to winged opposite the lobes, sometimes basally gibbous; stamens (5-)8-10(-14), usually twice as many as petals or rarely just as many, all stamens equal or alternately unequal (either the filaments or anthers alternating in length/shape), borne on edge of an obscure to prominent nectariferous disc; filaments equal or alternately unequal, usually straight or rarely S-shaped (geniculate), sometimes also basally papillose, distinct or connate, shorter or longer than anther; anther inverting during development, 2-celled, equal or alternately unequal, often distally with 2 distinct or connate tubules or terminal awns, sometimes provided with abaxial spurs; white, powdery, disintegration tissue present or lacking; thecae smooth to coarsely granular, with or without a basal appendage; tubules when present conical and rigid or cylindric and flexible, of equal or ca. 1/2 diameter of the thecae, longer or shorter than thecae; dehiscence normally introrse, but rarely extrorse or latrorse, by longitudinal slits or more typically by apical pores (round or oblique); pollen grains in tetrahedral tetrads or rarely single, sometimes with viscin threads; pistil single; ovary superior or inferior, 4-5(-10)-carpellate, usually with as many locules as carpels or with twice as many locules as carpels, rarely loculate in lower portion and 1-locular above; placentation axile, rarely intruded parietal; ovules numerous per locule or rarely solitary, anatropous to campylotropous with a single integumentary layer; style single, fluted, hollow; stigma simple but occasionally weakly lobed. Fruit a loculicidal or septicidal capsule, berry, or drupe, with a usually persistent, rarely with accrescent and fleshy calyx (Gaultheria); seeds small, ca. 1-1.5 mm long, usually numerous (1 per locule in Gaylussacia), rarely winged or tailed (Bejaria), sometimes enclosed in a mucilaginous sheath, testa thin with elongated or isodiametric cells, endosperm fleshy, embryo straight, usually white or sometimes green.
Ericaceae comprise ca. 126 genera with ca. 4100 species. The family has cosmopolitan distribution, with the exception of Antarctica, inhabiting the temperate regions of the world and montane areas in tropical latitudes. In the Neotropics, there are 46 genera and over 800 species, with the largest genera Cavendishia (150), Thibaudia (60), Psammisia (60), Vaccinium (ca. 48), Macleania (40), Gaylussacia (40), Gaultheria (37), Ceratostema (34), and Disterigma (32).