This section is from the book "Sub-Alpine Plants Or Flowers Of The Swiss Woods And Meadows", by H. Stuart Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Sub-Alpine Plants: Or, Flowers of the Swiss Woods and Meadows.
A large family, widely spread throughout the globe, but with very few European genera.
Shrubs with alternate, entire leaves, and small green flowers on short pedicels, usually clustered in the axils of the leaves. Petals none or very small. Calyx with 4 or 5 short deciduous teeth. Stamens 4 or 5, alternating with the teeth of the calyx, and inserted on a disk. Ovary free, 3 or 4-celled. Style very short. Fruit a small berry (or drupe), enclosing 3 or 4 small nuts. A rather large genus, spread over the northern hemisphere of both Old and New World, and penetrating into the tropics.
A small under-shrub, with prostrate branches, clinging to the rocks. Leaves entire, finely toothed, with 4-7 somewhat curved lateral parallel veins on each side of the midrib. Flowers in small axillary cymes, unisexual, greenish, very small. Petals narrow or wanting. Sepals with 4 lanceolate lobes.
Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Pyrenees, Corbieres, Bavaria.
A much larger (erect) shrub, 1-3 yards high. Leaves large, oval, suddenly contracted into a triangular apex, or sometimes obtuse, lateral veins, 8-14. Flowers similar. Lobes of the calyx triangular.
Dry, rocky places, and among debris up to 5500 feet. May, June.
Western Europe, Jura, Alps, Cevennes, Corbieres, Pyrenees, Italy, Switzerland, Sardinia, Spain; Morocco, Algeria, Western Asia.