Evergreen or deciduous trees or shrubs or sometimes woody vines. Leaves opposite, verticillate or very rarely alternate, simple or pinnately compound. Stipules wanting. Inflorescence consisting of mostly terminal dichasial panicles or cymes. Bracts and braoteoles present. Flowers hermaphrodite or rarely unisexual, fragrant, actinomorphic. Calyx mostly small and cupular with 4—8 (—12) teeth, rarely wanting. Corolla of 4(—12) petals which are basally united into a tube or free or sometimes wanting; limb obsolete. Stamens 2(—4); filaments often short, slender, inserted on the corolla-tube and alternating with the corolla-lobes; anthers oblong with broad and protruding connective, longitudinally dehiscent. Ovary superior, 2(—l)-locular; style simple, apically divided into 2, mostly flat, deltoid or fusiform stigmatic lobes. Ovules usually 2(—19) in each loculus, anatropous or amphitropous, ascending or pendulous. Fruit a loculicidal capsule, a berry, drupe or samara, often only 1-seeded. Seeds with hard endocarp. Endosperm present. Embryo erect. About 500 species in c. 25 genera from the tropics to temperate regions, especially in Asia.