A family of small trees, shrubs, and climbers, in which the leaves are alternate, simple, and entire, with stipules, and glands containing an aromatic oil. The petioles are winged, and sheath the nodular, jointed stem. The stem form is a result of sympodial growth. The flowers are small, bisexual or unisexual, and held in spikes or racemes opposite the leaves. The ovary is unilocular and superior, with up to 4 fused carpels surrounded by scale-like bracts, but there is no calyx or corolla. The fruit is a small, fleshy drupe with a single seed, often sunk into the stem. The vascular bundles are peculiarly arranged for a dicotyledon, often being irregularly scattered through the stem. Piper nigrum yields the condiment pepper, and is widely cultivated. There are 4 genera and more than 2000 species, found throughout the tropics and represented in most rain forests.
Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry.