Herbs, shrubs or trees, sometimes climbing. Leaves usually alternate, entire. Stipules wanting or stipular glands present. Inflorescence consisting of axillary or terminal spikes, cymes or panicles. Flowers hermaphrodite, irregular, subtended by a bract and 2 bracteoles. Sepals 5 (or 4—7), imbricate, persistent, free or the 2 lower united, the 2 inner sepals largest, often winged or petaloid. Petals usually 3 (or 5), the lower median petal (“keel”) often concave, enclosing stamens and ovary, with or without a fringing crest, two petals as long as the keel and two wanting, very small or scale-like. Stamens usually 8; filaments united into a splitted sheath and adhering more or less to the petals; anthers basifixed, 1-celled, opening by a terminal or subterminal pore. Disk sometimes present. Ovary superior, 2-locular; style 1; stigma often tufted. Ovules solitary in each locule, pendulous, anatropous with a ventral raphe. Fruit a loculicidal 2-locular capsule, or a nut, samara or drupe. Seeds solitary in each locule, often pubescent. Embryo straight. Endosperm present or wanting. About 800 species in 13 genera in tropical and temperate regions.