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Trees or shrubs, rarely climbing or sometimes lianas or herbs, often stellate-haired.Leaves alternate, simple, palmate or digitately compound.Flowers 3-5 merous.Sepals 3-5, valvate, partly connate below or rarely free.Petals 5 or absent, contorted in bud, free or sometimes adnate below to staminal column.Stamens many, free or connate in a column, sometimes with staminodes. Carpels usually 5, may be few or more, syncarpous or sometimes apocarpous, ovary superior, locule as many as carpels, locule 2 - many ovuled. Fruits fleshy to leathery or even woody, often separating into mericarps.Seeds sometimes arillate.

Key to the Genus

Serial Key Reference
1a. Trees or shrubs 2
1a. Herbs or undershrubs 10
2a. Flowers unisexual or polygamous; petals absent 3
2b. Flowers bisexual; petals present 7
3a. Leaves scaly beneath; fruits samara Heritiera
3b. Leaves without scales beneath; fruits follicular 4
4a. Follicles opening long before maturity. Androgynophore exerted after anthesis Firmiana
4b. Follicles not opening before maturity 5
5a. Follicles membranous, boat-shaped; seed usually one Scaphium
5b. Follicles coriaceous or woody; seeds many 6
6a. Seeds winged Pterygota
6b. Seeds not winged Sterculia
7a. Staminal column adnate to gynophore forming stalk, dilated above into a cup; fertile anthers alternating with staminodes towards margin 8
7b. Staminal columns free from carpels; anthers alternating with staminodes along the margin of cupular column at its apex 9
8a. Flowers actinomorphic; staminal tube narrow, straight; seeds winged. Trees Pterospermum
8b. Flowers zygomorphic; staminal tube dilated; seeds not winged. Usually shrubs Helicteres
9a. Staminodesemarginate; capsules 5-winged Abroma
9b. Staminodes acute; capsules not winged. Fertile stamens 5; capsules covered with stiff spines and barbs Byttneria
10a. Stamens 15 in 5 groups of 3 each; staminodes about 5 times longer than the stamens Pentapetes
10b. Stamens 5, solitary; staminodes absent 11
11a. Ovary 5-carpellary; style central Melochia
11b. Ovary 1-carpellary; style excentric Waltheria