Trees or shrubs usually dioecious. Leaves alternate, entire or serrate, with small glands often along margins; stipules present. Inflorescence axillary, dense spike like catkins, solitary or in clusters,. Flowers bisexual or unisexual with many often spreading stamens; nectary disc or glands present. Ovary superior with parietal placentation; styles free or fused 1–10. Fruit a capsule or berry. Capsule seeds with tuft of hairs. 55 gen., trop. to temp., mostly Africa and Asia.