Herbs or undershrubs. Leaves opposite or verticillate, connected at the base by a stipular line or membrane. Flowers actinomorphic, hermaphrodite or unisexual. Sepals 4—16. Petals 4—5 or many. Stamens as many as the petals or rarely only one, inserted on the tube or throat of the corolla. Ovary superior, 1—5- but usually 2-locular, 2—4-partite or with 2 stigmas. Fruit a bi-valved capsule or a berry. Seeds with nuclear endosperm. Embryo small, usually straight. Endosperm copious. About 800 species in 20 genera, in the warmer and temperate parts of the world.