Lianescent or creeping, perennial herbs (also subrosulate, erect and terrestrial in West and Central Africa), with tough, slender stems rooting along internodes. Leaves numerous; petiole with well-developed persistent sheath and pulvinate apex; blade simple, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic to oblanceolate or obovate, with pellucid glandular lines or punctae; venation reticulate, primary lateral veins often forming inframarginal veins. Inflorescences appearing with leaves, 1–many on short sympodial axes, subtended by lanceolate bracts. Spathe erect, ± convolute, sometimes with slight central constriction, ± boat-shaped and gaping at anthesis to expose at least upper part of spadix, usually completely deciduous soon after. Spadix with basal pistillate part separated from apical staminate part by very short sterile zone bearing prismatic staminodes. Flowers unisexual, lacking perigon, usually densely congested. Stamens free, in distinct groups of 2–4, subsessile, truncate; anthers dehiscing by apical pores; connective thick, fleshy. Ovary 1(–3)-locular; ovules 1 per locule; placentation basal to axile; stigma sessile, subglobose to discoid or shallowly lobed. Berries ellipsoid to obovoid or subglobose, usually red, 1(–3)-seeded. Seeds large, ovoid, smooth; endosperm abundant; embryo small, lateral.
Laticifers absent. HABIT : erect, repent or climbing herbs, rooting at least from lower nodes, branches slender. LEAVES : many, often forming terminal crown in terrestrial species. PETIOLE : geniculate apically, geniculum often inconspicuous, sheath persistent, rather long. BLADE : lanceolate or oblanceolate to ovate or ovate-oblong, rarely rounded, rarely pubescent below, resin glands pellucid, linear or punctate; primary lateral veins pinnate, often forming submarginal collective vein, otherwise running into marginal vein, higher order venation reticulate. INFLORESCENCE : 1-12(-20) in each floral sympodium, internodes of floral sympodium sometimes relatively elongated. PEDUNCLE : short to relatively long. SPATHE : erect, green to whitish, boat-shaped, not or hardly constricted, convolute basally, gaping apically at anthesis, deciduous to marcescent. SPADIX : cylindric-clavate, equal to or somewhat longer than spathe, female zone usually densely flowered, rarely laxly, shorter than male zone and either contiguous with it or separated by a laxly flowered zone of sterile male flowers, male zone fertile to apex, axis often persistent in fruit. FLOWERS : unisexual, perigone absent. MALE FLOWER : 2-4-androus, stamens short, obpyramidal, truncate apically, anthers subsessile, connective thick, thecae oblong, dehiscing by short apical slit. POLLEN : inaperturate, subspheroidal, medium-sized (mean 32 µm., range 27-40 µm.), exine verrucate to rugulate or subreticulate, usually with psilate patches of variable size, rarely spinose. STERILE MALE FLOWERS : with 3-4 obpyramidal, depressed staminodia. FEMALE FLOWER : ovary depressed, 1-3-locular, ovules 1 per locule, anatropous, funicle short, placentae subbasal, stigma sessile, hemispheric-discoid, relatively large, sometimes weakly lobed. BERRY : globose to ellipsoid, 1-3-seeded, mostly red, sometimes orange to greenish-yellow, infructescence subglobose to cylindric. SEED : ovoid to ellipsoid, testa thin, smooth, brown, plumule lateral, superficial, with leaf primordia (C.liberica), endosperm absent.
Root-climbing hemi-epiphytes or creeping terrestrials; petiole geniculate apically; leaf blade with resin canals and reticulate fine venation; spathe boat-shaped, not or hardly constricted; spadix fertile to apex; flowers unisexual, perigon absent; stamens free. Differs from Cercestis in leaf blades always simple, acute to rounded at base, ovaries 1-3 locular, spadix stipitate or sessile, male and female zones sometimes separated by zone of sterile flowers, and lacking flagelliform shoots.