Trees small, palmlike, or shrubs, rarely vines, often prickly, monoecious, dioecious, andromonoecious, gynomonoecious, or polygamomonoecious. Stem stout, unbranched, rarely branched, with a terminal cluster of leaves, with flowing, latexlike exudate. Leaves alternate, long petiolate, usually estipulate, large; stipules when present, spiny; leaf blade palmate or palmatifid, rarely entire or pinnatifid. Inflorescences axillary; male flowers aggregated in cymose panicles; female flowers usually solitary or aggregated in corymbose cymes, large. Calyx 5-lobed; lobes small, connate basally. Corolla 5-lobed; tube long in male flowers, short in female flowers. Stamens 5 or 10, 1- or 2-whorled, inserted in throat of corolla tube; filaments free, connate basally; anthers introrse, tetrasporangiate, dehiscing via longitudinal slits. Gynoecium in male flowers vestigial, or absent; in female flowers syncarpous, synovarious to synstylovarious; ovary superior, 1- or 5-loculed, placentation when 1-loculed parietal (placentas ± deeply intruded) or laminar-dispersed, when 5-loculed axile; ovules numerous, anatropous, bitegmic; styles 1 or 5, free to partly joined, apical; stigmas 5, papillate, dry. Fruit large, fleshy, indehiscent berry. Seeds numerous, surrounded by mucilage; endosperm oily; embryo well differentiated; cotyledons 2, broad, flat. n = 9.
Six genera and 34 species: Central and South America, one genus of two species (Cylicomorpha Urban) in tropical Africa, one genus (Carica) widely introduced and cultivated in tropical areas of the world, including China.
Chen Peishan. 1999. Caricaceae. In: Ku Tsuechih, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 52(1): 121-122.