Perennial glabrous herbs usually with an acrid watery or milky juice. Rhizomes tuberous or elongated. Woody flowering stems present only in Gymnostachys. Leaves solitary or few. Flowers minute, crowded into a dense cylindrical spadix which is usually enclosed in a spathe, bisexual or unisexual, usually monoecious with the males in the upper part of the spadix and the females below, sometimes separated by sterile flowers or a bare interval. Perianth segments present in bisexual flowers, mostly absent from the others. Stamens 6 or less. Ovary superior or embedded in the spadix, 1- or 3-locular. Fruit a berry. 110 gen., mostly trop., some temp.