Herbs, shrubs or trees. Leaves alternate, simple, entire; stipules absent or minute. Flowers bi- or unisexual, regular, in racemes or spikes. Sepals 4–5, free or connate basally. Petals absent. Stamens up to 8, free, hypogynous. Carpels 1–10, free or connate basally, superior, often becoming completely connate in the fruit. Fruit a berry. 18 gen., widespread, particularly in warmer parts of S. Africa and America.