Herbs, rarely climbing or clambering shrubs. Leaves opposite or alternate, exstipulate, simple, entire or obsoletely dentate-serrate. Flowers ♀, unisexual, or partly difformed and neutral, in clusters, heads, racemes, spikes or panicles, solitary or clustered in the axil of persistent bracts, usually bibracteolate. Tepals 3-5, mostly free; bracts, bracteoles and tepals with scarious margins or entirely scarious; bracteoles falling off with the perianth or persistent; perianth usually enclosing the fruit and falling off with it, rarely persistent. Stamens as many as petals and opposed to them, rarely fewer; filaments free, or connate below, or almost entirely united in a cup or tube, with or without interposed dentiform, subulate, linear or short and broad pseudo-staminodes; anthers dorsifixed or inserted in a basal cleft, 1—2-celled (2- or 4-locellate). Ovary superior, 1-celled; ovules 1 or more, basal; funicles short or long. Fruit sometimes baccate or crustaceous, usually membranous, very rarily corky, circumscissile, indehiscent or bursting irregularly. Seeds 1-~, often lenticular or subreniform, smooth or verruculose. Distr. Worldwide, more than 60 genera and ca 850 spp., few in the tropical forests, most developed in America and Africa, in Australia a big centre of Ptilotus. In Malaysia: mostly represented by widely distributed anthropochorous spp., none endemic, several naturalized.