Shrubs or trees, hermaphroditic, terrestrial, unarmed, not clonal. Leaves persistent, alternate, simple [pinnately compound]; stipules absent [deciduous, small]; sessile [petiolate]; blade ± fleshy, margins entire. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, cymes or flowers solitary in axils [caulophyllous], irregular; bracts present. Flowers [some staminate only]; epicalyces absent; hypanthium absent or weakly developed and inconspicuous; sepals 5, proximally connate [distinct]; petals 5 [absent], distinct; intrastaminal nectary disc absent [present]; stamens 10, in 2 whorls of 5, distinct, free, inner whorl sometimes staminodial or vestigial; pistils (4 or)5[1–3], distinct; ovary 1-locular; placentation basal-marginal; style 1 per pistil, basally [ventrally] inserted; stigma 1; ovules 2[–5] per pistil, all but 1 abortive, basal, collateral, integument 1. Fruits drupelets [or nutlets]. Seed 1, reniform, embryo campylopterous [anatropous], curved, cotyledons 2, equal-sized, chlorophyllous.
Florida, Mexico, West Indies, Bermuda, Central America, South America, Asia, Africa, Indian Ocean Islands, Pacific Islands, Australia, tropical and subtropical coasts.
Genera 5, species 8 (1 in the flora).
The generic count includes Recchia Moçiño & Sessé ex de Candolle, retained in Simaroubaceae by A. Cronquist (1981) but placed in Surianaceae by other authors, and Stylobasium Desfontaines, sometimes placed in a separate family. The other genera are Cadellia F. Mueller and Guilfoylia F. Mueller. Recchia has one Mexican species; the others are Australian.
A. Cronquist (1981) placed Surianaceae within Rosales. Formerly, this family, or at least the genus Suriana, was often included in the Simaroubaceae of the Rutales (J. Hutchinson 1964–1967, vol. 1; A. L. Takhtajan 1987). R. F. Thorne (1992b) allied Surianaceae closely with Fabaceae and Connaraceae. A phylogenetic analysis of molecular data by E. S. Fernando et al. (1993) supported the monophyly of Surianaceae (in the sense of Cronquist) and provided the first evidence for a close relationship to Fabaceae and Polygalaceae. Based on this, and evidence from other studies (P. A. Gadek et al. 1996; T. Kajita et al. 2001; F. Claxton et al. 2005), Surianaceae has been moved to Fabales (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 2016).