Trees or shrubs, dioecious; branches opposite, cylindrical. Leaves opposite, estipulate, petiolate, simple, pinnately veined; leaf blade abaxially light green, adaxially deep green and shiny, dark brown when dry, some species variegated with yellow or white markings, thickly leathery to papery, pubescent or glabrous, margin serrate or dentate, rarely entire. Inflorescences terminal, paniculate or racemose-paniculate. Flowers 4-merous, unisexual, actinomorphic, subtended by 1 or 2 bracteoles. Stamens 4, alternate petals. Ovary inferior, carpel 1, locule 1; ovule 1, pendulous; style short, thick; stigma capitate, straight or curving, slightly 2–4-lobed. Fruit drupes, fleshy, red when mature, black when dry, crowned with persistent calyx teeth, style, and stigma.
One genus and ten species: Bhutan, China, N India, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Sikkim, Vietnam; ten species (seven endemic) in China.
Aucuba, previously placed in the Cornaceae, has been included in the Garryaceae on the basis of molecular, chemical, and morphological evidence (Bremer et al., Pl. Syst. Evol. 229: 137–169. 2001). Aucuba and Garrya Douglas ex Lindley, the latter genus from Central America (including the Greater Antilles) and W North America, are sister taxa with high support (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 141: 399–436. 2003). It is here preferred to treat the two genera in separate families: Aucubaceae and Garryaceae.
Soong Tzepu. 1990. Aucuba. In: Fang Wenpei & Hu Wenkuang, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 56: 6–20.