Treelets or shrubs, erect or climbing by hooks or tendrils or the stems twining, rarely herbs or subshrubs. Leaves simple, alternate or opposite. Stipules usually present, small and deciduous or modified into spines and then persistent. Inflorescence mostly consisting of axillary corymbs or cymes, rarely terminal racemes or panicles. Flowers actinomorphic, hermaphrodite or polygamous. Receptacle usually present. Calyx 4—5-lobed, valvate. Petals 4—5 or rarely wanting, small, often cucullate and unguiculate. Stamens epipetalous and often enclosed by the petals; anthers 2-celled, with longitudinal dehiscence. Disk perigynous, fleshy, fitting or loining the receptacle. Ovary sessile, free or immersed in the disk, superior or more or less adherent to the receptacle, (2—) 3 (—4)-locular; styles simple or 2—4-cleft. Ovules solitary in each locule, anatropous, with basal placentation. Fruit drupaceous, a capsule or a samara, 1—4, usually 3-locular. Endosperm copious or scanty. Embryo large, straight. Over 900 species in c. 55 genera of almost worldwide distribution.