PiperaceaePepper family

  - Leaves simple, alternate, entire, distichous.
  - Nodes usually swollen.
  - With stipule fused to petiole or sheathing node, leaving circular scar.
  - Often with stipule-like prophyll enclosing new twig and leaf buds
  - Aromatic or spicy odor.
  - Tiny flowers on (mostly) unranched pencil-shaped inflorescences.
  - Single-seeded fruit embedded in the thicked inflorescence, rarely individually stalked.

Diagnosis: Srubs and small trees, rarely climbers, spicy or aromatic odors (e.g. sassafras), with a fused stipule that leaves a circular scar at the node and sometimes also fused to the petiole leaving a large scar when it degenerates, many also with a stipule-like prophyll that encloses the twig and leaf buds, leaves simple, alternate, entire, petiole base often sheathing the node, mostly distichous, nodes usually swollen, inflorescence arising opposite the petiole, inflorescence a characteristic slender spike with many tiny closely-packed flowers.

Similar families
Polygonaceae: nodes not swollen, no spicy odor, stipule encloses node and part of twig above node.

Diversity: Total: 3 genera, 85 species. Trees: 1 genus, about 5 species.

Credits: Images and text copyright 2000-2007, William A. Haber, http://efg.cs.umb.edu/