Mostly evergreen trees or shrubs, usually aromatic, or sometimes parasitic, twining herbs. Leaves alternate, simple, pinnately veined or subtriplinerved. Stipules wanting. Inflorescence usually consisting of axillary or subterminal panicles, spikes, racemes or umbels. Flowers hermaphrodite or unisexual, actinomorphic, usually 3-merous. Perianth biseriate, sepaloid, the outer segments often smaller than the alternate inner ones, deciduous or persistent; tube usually persisting as a cupule at the base of the fruit. Stamens typically in 4 series of three stamens each, the inner series usually staminodial; filaments usually free, those of the third series with 2 glands at the base; anthers basifixed, 2- or 4-celled, cells in 2 vertical rows or in one arcuate row, opening by valves, those of the outer two series introrse, those of the third series extrorse. Ovary superior, 1-celled; style 1; stigma 1, sometimes 2- or 3-lobed. Ovule solitary, anatropous, pendulous from a parietal placenta. Fruit a drupe or berry, with an enlarged and persistent perianth-tube surrounding the base of the fruit. Seed one. Embryo straight. Endosperm wanting. About 1100 species in 45 genera, widely distributed in tropical regions and a few species in the temperate regions.