Monoecious or dioecious trees, shrubs or herbs. Leaves simple, alternate or opposite, rarely very reduced; stipules present or absent. Inflorescence various. Flowers unisexual, regular. Sepals and petals 4–6, or petals and/or sepals absent. Stamens 1 to many. Ovary superior, 3- or rarely 1–2-locular; ovules 2 per loculus, pendulous; placentas axile; styles as many as loculi, free or connate towards the base, often branched. Fruit a schizocarpic capsule or succulent Breynia, splitting septicidally into 2-valved mericarps and leaving a persistent central axis; mericarps usually dehiscing ventrally. 83 gen., cosmop.