Shrubs climbing by means of tendrils which are modifications of the axis; nodes often jointed or swollen. Leaves usually alternate, simple or compound, often with pellucid punctate dots. Stipules caducous. Inflorescence consisting of cymes, racemes or panicles opposite the leaves. Flowers minute, hermaphrodite or unisexual, actinomorphic, usually greenish-yellow. Sepals 4—5, often basally connate. Petals 4—5, separate or coherent, caducous, valvate. Disk annular or lobed. Stamens 4—5, epipetalous, arising from the base of the disk; anthers distinct or connate, 2-celled, with longitudinal dehiscence. Ovary superior, 2(—9)-locular, usually surrounded by the disk; style 1, short; stigma discoid or capitate. Ovules 1—2 in each locule, ascending, anatropous. Fruit a berry. Seeds 2—4. Embryo straight. Endosperm copious. About 700 species in 12 genera; widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions and extending into the temperate regions.