Annual or perennial herbs, erect or prostrate, sometimes undershrubs. Leaves opposite or alternate or pseudo-verticillate, simple, fleshy or reduced to scales. Stipules present or wanting. Inflorescence consisting of axillary or terminal cymes or flowers solitary. Flowers actinomorphic, hermaphrodite. Tepals 4—5, free or connate, in the West Indian species free from the ovary. Stamens 4—5 and then alternating with the tepals or fewer or more, the outermost often sterile and petaloid; filaments free or basically united into a single mass or into separate fascicles; anthers opening with longitudinal dehiscence, 2-celled. Ovary superior (or inferior), 1- to many-locular; style one or wanting; stigmas as many as the locules, usually radiating. Ovules few to numerous, anatropous or campylotropous, on axile, parietal or basal placentas. Fruit a loculicidal or circumscissile capsule, sometimes leathery or tardily dehiscent or berry-like. Seeds usually with an aril. Embryo curved. Endosperm copious or scanty. About 1100 species in 23 genera, mainly in South Africa; inhabitants of dry tropical and subtropical regions especially.