Trees [or prostrate shrubs], evergreen, aromatic. Pith homogeneous. Leaves alternate, simple, without stipules; petiole short. Leaf blade pinnately veined, unlobed, margins entire; pellucid dots (oil cells in tissue of leaf) conspicuous or inconspicuous. Inflorescences terminal and axillary, cymes [racemes or solitary flowers], pedunculate; bracts present or absent. Flowers bisexual; perianth hypogynous, segments imbricate; sepals persistent, 3; petals 5[-12] in 1[-4] whorl(s); stamens [7-]10[-12], hypogynous, monadelphous; filaments connate, forming tube around pistil; anthers extrorse, longitudinally dehiscent; pistil 1, superior, 2-6-carpellate; ovary 1-locular; placentation parietal, placentas 2[-6]; ovules 2-3 per placenta; style 1, generally short; stigma 1, usually 2-6-lobed. Fruits berries. Seeds 2 or more, not arillate; endosperm oily [ruminate].
Primarily tropical, Western Hemisphere, Africa (including Madagascar).
Genera 6, species ca. 20 (1 genus, 1 species in the flora).
The family was placed in Hypericales by J. K. Small (1933); the combination of oil cells in most of the tissue, pollen with a single distal furrow (occasionally with 3-radiate surficial furrow), very long vessels, and scalariform vessel perforation plates with many bars suggests Magnoliales or Annonales (A. Cronquist 1981; R. M. T. Dahlgren 1980; H. Melchoir and W. Schultze-Motel 1959; R. F. Thorne 1976; T. K. Wilson 1960; C. E. Wood Jr. 1958). Further support of this placement comes from leaf architecture studies by L. J. Hickey (1971) and P-type plastids in sieve elements (H. -D. Behnke 1988).
Melchior, H. and W. Schultze-Motel. 1959. Canellaceae. (Supplement to Vol. 21.) In: H. G. A. Engler et al., eds. 1924+. Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien..., ed. 2. 26+ vols. Leipzig and Berlin. Vol. 17a(2), pp. 221-224.