Herbs or shrubby plants, often somewhat succulent. Leaves opposite, alternate or in basal rosettes. Stipules scarious or modified into hairs or rarely wanting. Flowers actinomorphic, perfect, solitary or crowded at the apex of the stems and branches or in terminal or axillary racemes or cymes. Sepals 2, free or united at the base. Petals usually 4—5, free or slightly united at the base, often deciduous, imbricate. Stamens inserted with the petals, sometimes more, or rarely fewer than the petals; the filaments filiform or subulate; the anthers 2-celled with longitudinal dehiscence. Ovary superior to inferior, 1-locular; style 1, with 2—8 stigmatic branches. Ovules 2 to numerous, on a central or basal placenta, campylotropous. Fruit a loculicidal or circumscissile capsule. Seeds 2 to numerous, round-reniform. Embryo nearly annular. Endosperm mealy, copious. About 500 species in 19 genera in tropical and temperate regions, mainly in America.