The liana genus Paullinia L. is one of the most speciose in the neotropics and is unusual in its diversity of stem macromorphologies and cambial conformations. These so-called "vascular cambial variants" are morphologically disparate, evolutionarily labile, and are implicated in injury repair and flexibility. In this study, we explore at the finer scale how wood anatomy translates into functions related to the climbing habit. We present the wood anatomy of Paullinia and discuss the functional implications of key anatomical features. Wood anatomy characters were surveyed for 21 Paullinia species through detailed anatomical study. Paullinia woods have dimorphic vessels, rays of two size classes, and both septate and non-septate fibers. Fibriform vessels, fusiform axial parenchyma, and elements morphologically intermediate between fibers and axial parenchyma were observed. Prismatic crystals are common in the axial and/or ray parenchyma, and laticifers are present in the cortex and/or the early-formed secondary phloem. Some features appear as unique to Paullinia or the Sapindaceae, such as the paucity of axial parenchyma and the abundance of starch storing fibers. Although many features are conserved across the genus, the Paullinia wood anatomy converges on several features of the liana-specific functional anatomy expressed across distantly related lianas, demonstrating an example of convergent evolution. Hence, the conservation of wood anatomy in Paullinia suggests a combination of phylogenetic constraint as a member of Sapindaceae and functional constraint from the liana habit.