Shrubs, trees or rarely herbs. Leaves alternate, sessile, simple, often scale-like or needle-shaped. Stipules wanting. Flowers solitary or in spikes or racemes, actinomorphic, hermaphrodite. Sepals 4—5, free or united at base. Petals 4—5, free or nearly so, imbricate. Stamens 4 to many; filaments usually free, rarely somewhat united; anthers extrorse, versatile, with longitudinal dehiscence. Ovary superior, 1-celled, with 3—5 parietal placentas; styles 3—5, free or sometimes stigmas sessile. Ovules numerous. Disk usually present. Fruit a 1-celled or incompletely 3—4-celled capsule. Seeds bearded, rarely winged. Endosperm scanty or wanting. Embryo straight. About 100 species in 4 genera, in temperate and sub-tropical regions, often in saline habitats.