Trees or shrubs, rarely climbing. Leaves alternate, rarely opposite, often distichous, coriaceous or chartaceous, simple. Stipules caducous, rarely foliaceous or persistent. Inflorescence consisting of axillary clusters or terminal or axillary cymes; pedicels usually articulate near the base. Bracts and bracteoles small, scale-like. Flowers generally hermaphrodite, actinomorphic. Sepals 2—15, free, imbricate. Petals wanting or when present imbricate, usually equal in number to the sepals, with or without an opposite basal scale. Receptacle often with appendages (disc). Stamens generally numerous and often in bundles opposite the petals or equal in number to the sepals; filaments filiform; anthers 2-celled, opening with longitudinal dehiscence, often attenuate or with glandular appendages. Ovary superior, 1-celled; style one or as many as the carpels (2—10), free or united; stigma of various form. Ovules numerous on 2—10 parietal, often much intruding placentas. Fruit a berry or a loculicidal (or rarely indehiscent) capsule. Seeds often with an aril. Embryo straight. Endosperm copious. About 850 species in 84 genera in the tropics and the subtropics.