Herbs, shrubs or trees. Leaves simple, opposite or verticellate. Stipules small and deciduous or wanting. Flowers hermaphrodite, usually actinomorphic or rarely zygomorphic, sometimes cleistogamic, usually solitary or cymose, rarely paniculate. Receptacle campanulate or tubular. Sepals mostly 4—6, valvate, alternating with smaller lobes or teeth. Petals free, as many as the sepals or sometimes wanting. Stamens very variable in number, inserted at various heights in the receptacle in one or more series, equal or some smaller or imperfect, somewhat lower inserted in the receptacle than the petals; filaments filiform; anthers 2-celled, basifixed or dorsifixed, introrse. Ovary superior, sometimes stipitate, mostly 2—6-locular with axile placentation; style usually long and slender, sometimes short and thick; stigma rather small, capitate or slightly 2-lobed. Ovules numerous to 2 per locule. Fruit capsular and dehiscent, more or less enclosed by the calyx. Seeds mostly numerous, sometimes winged. Embryo straight. Endosperm wanting. About 500 species in 22 genera, mainly in the tropics, especially of the New World, and subtropics; less numerous in the temperate regions.