Herbs, usually provided with a rhizome or corm, or rarely woody plants. Leaves alternate or subopposite, sometimes all basal, trifoliolate, digitately or pinnately compound or rarely uni-foliolate by suppression of the lateral leaflets. Leaflets predominantly obcordate or obreniform. Stipules present or wanting. Inflorescence consisting of simple or compound cymes. Flowers hermaphrodite, actinormorphic or slightly zygomorphic. Sepals 5, imbricate, free or slightly connate, herbaceous or membranaceous. Petals 5, contorted. Stamens 10, or rarely 5 or 15; filaments united at the base, unequal; the longer ones episepalous, often with appendages on the back, the shorter ones epipetalous and sometimes sterile; anthers 2-celled, with longitudinal dehiscence, dorsifixed, versatile. Ovary superior, 5-locular, 5-angular; styles 5, coherent or free, various in length; stigmas terminal or introrse, entire or cleft. Ovules 1 to several in each locule, anatropous, pendulous. Disk absent. Fruit a loculicidal capsule or a berry. Seeds often striate. Embryo straight. Endosperm fleshy. About 1000 species in 8 genera, almost cosmopolitan, chiefly in the tropics and subtropics of the southern hemisphere.