Typically the first section (or first paragraph) of the Chinese description contains a specific sequence for the character states and measurements. The progression is: habit (trees, shrubs, herbs), root, stem, branches, leaves, inflorescence, flower, flower structure, fruit, and seed. These categories are each separated by a period. Commas and semicolons punctuate detailed characteristics within each organ. All measurements use the metric system. Flowering and fruiting times or seasons usually appear on a separate line following the description.
The second section gives the distribution information. Current names for Chinese provinces and regions or municipalities are cited first (see last page for list) and foreign countries afterwards. Former geographic names may appear in parentheses when necessary for clarity. The Chinese names follow the atlas Handbook of Chinese Place Names or The People’s Daily News. International place names follow the World Atlas Manual. In cases where the distribution was uncertain, a note explains where the information was taken. Notes on ecology or elevation often are given after the distribution information. The compass directions in Chinese are expressed in the reverse of English conventions; for example, east-south is used rather than south-east.
A third section, where appropriate, gives a brief description of the economic importance and use of the plant in The People’s Republic of China. Information on medicinal plants may include a chemical analysis and is often reduced to a general line or two in the English revisions.