Schismatoclada is characterized by its woody erect habit; opposite or infrequently verticillate 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 reduplicate-valvate in bud; 2-lobed stigmas; ovary with 2 locules and numerous ovules in each locule; capsular, septicidal, subglobose, generally papery to somewhat woody fruits; flattened winged seeds; and often (though not always) a characteristic yellow-green drying color. 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.
Cavaco (1964) presented a synoptic taxonomy of this genus, with illustrations. Buchner & Puff (1993) clarified the generic delimitation based on morphological characters and presented a synoptic taxonomic review of the species of Schismatoclada, which significantly advanced understanding of this group. They did not present again any of the detailed information on individual species that Cavaco had presented, so both of these articles need to be consulted to find the full information. Several of the species included in Schismatoclada by Cavaco were transferred to Payera by Buchner & Puff. (By an interesting coincidence, both Cavaco and Buchner & Puff accepted 19 species of Schismatoclada in Madagascar, but because of their different generic circumscriptions and taxonomic changes made later by Cavaco, they did not recognize the same 19 species.) A detailed study of both of these genera incorporating new specimens and additional characters remains to be done; many species are very poorly known, and there seem to be specimens collected in recent explorations that do not match any of the described species. Cavaco (1964: pp. 193-194) presented a key to the species he recognized of Schismatoclada; some of these are now included in Payera, and so many specimens clearly fall outside the species he recognized that this key is only partially useful today.
Schismatoclada is very similar to Danais and Payera. 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 Payera by its corollas with the lobes valvate in bud, its fruits with loculicidal dehiscence, and its more elongated, narrower seeds.
Recently Krüger et al. (2012) have suggested that Schismatoclada should be included in an enlarged concept of Payera.