Payera is characterized by its woody erect habit; opposite leaves; interpetiolar, triangular to 2-lobed or fimbriate, generally persistent stipules; bracteate, cymose inflorescences that are generally terminal and sometimes also found at the uppermost stem nodes or displaced to pseudoaxillary as the stem elongates; bisexual, distylous, generally rather small flowers with 5 calyx lobes, corolla lobes, and stamens; funnelform to salverform corollas with the lobes valvate in bud and the tubes sometimes fenestrate; 2-lobed stigmas; ovary with 2 locules and numerous ovules in each locule; capsular, loculicidal, subglobose, generally papery to somewhat woody fruits; flattened winged seeds; and often (though not always) a characteristic yellow-green drying color. Corolla color ranges from white to yellow, orange, or purple. The capsules are semi-inferior and generally split from the top through the beak to near or below the middle of the capsule body, then the pyramidal or tubular beak portion (i.e., with the top portion inside the calyx limb prolonged above the calyx limb, so the capsule is slightly semi-inferior) splits again and the seeds are released often mainly through that beak portion. The stipules of some species of Payera may be quite large and rather leaf-like. Buchner & Puff (1993) clarified the generic delimitation based on morphological characters and presented a synoptic taxonomic review of the species of Payera, which significantly advanced understanding of this group; however a detailed study incorporating new specimens and additional characters remains to be done.
Payera is very similar to Danais and Schismatoclada. Buchner & Puff (1993) distinguished Danais from these by its climbing habit, inflorescences that may sometimes be axillary, and loculicidal capsules that are not beaked at the apex; vs. erect trees and shrubs with terminal inflorescences and fruits that are beaked and variously loculicidal or septicidal in Payera and Schismatoclada. However the fruits of some species of Danais are actually shortly beaked, but split straight down from the top to below the middle, with the beak portion not splitting further and the seeds released from the inside of the main part of the capsule. Buchner & Puff separated Schismatoclada by its corollas with the lobes valvate-reduplicate in bud, its fruits with septicidal dehiscence, and its more elongated, narrower seeds.
Recently, Krüger et al. (2012) have demonstrated that existing concepts of Payera and Schismatoclada are not tenable, and they suggest re-united them within an enlarged Payera.