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In the Cronquist system the family was placed in the order Ranunculales, but more recent classifications place it as the sole family in the order Sabiales, or (as in the APG II system), as unplaced to order and left among the basal lineages of the eudicots.
The family consists of three genera and about 160 species of woody plants. The genus Sabia often are lianas, while those in the genera Meliosma and Ophiocaryon are trees and shrubs; the latter two are sometimes treated in a separate family Meliosmaceae.