Chapelieria was first separated by A. Richard in his study of the Rubiaceae family, however de Candolle's description of this genus was effectively published a few months before Richard's work. This genus is related to Fernelia, Lemyrea, Galiniera, Gallienia, and some others in Madagascar, and the separation and circumscription of several of these are not yet completely clear (Stone & Davis 2004).
In Chevalier's circumscription Chapelieria comprises shrubs or small trees with rather leathery leaves; triangular interpetiolar stipules that are generally persistent; axillary and terminal, bracteate, often supraaxillary inflorescences; bisexual flowers with 5 calyx lobes, corolla lobes, and stamens; a funnelform, generally white corolla with the lobes left-contorted in bud; narrowly oblong, subsessile anthers that are partially exserted; a cylindrical stigma; the ovary 2-locular with several ovules in each locule; leathery, berry-like red fruits; and generally a brown drying color. Chevalier (1942, 1946) characterized the genus as having the flowers in sessile axillary glomerules or congested cymules, but also included in Chapelieria a species with terminal fascicles or cymes of flowers with well developed peduncles or pedicels. Both of these species were described and illustrated by Chevalier as having cylindrical, entire or longitudinally ridged stigmas; however de Candolle described the stigmas as shortly bilobed in the protologue, and the stipules as caducous.
This genus is not well known, and in addition to a poorly understood taxonomy it contains several nomenclatural problems. In particular there has been some confusion about which is the type specimen of Chapelieria madagascariensis and what species that specimen belongs to, and the name Chapelieria lemyroides is not validly published; see the discussion under each of these species for more details.