Annual or perennial, laticiferous herbs, rarely shrubs. Leaves (in Mal. spp.) spirally arranged, often incised. Stipules 0. Flowers mostly solitary, large, actinomorphic, ♀♂, 2—3-merous. Sepals caducous or calyptrate, free or united. Petals free, 4-6, rarely more or absent, biseriate, imbricate, often crumpled in bud; nectaries absent. Stamens ~, free; anthers 2-celled, dehiscing lengthwise. Ovary superior, 1-celled, with 2 or more parietal placentas (sometimes with protruding placentas or a spurious wall). Stigmas opposite or alternate with the placentas. Ovules 1 to numerous. Capsule opening by valves (or pores). Seeds small, with a crested or smooth raphe, or arillate; embryo minute; endosperm copious, fleshy or oily. Distr. About 23 genera, of which the bulk on the N. hemisphere, few in Central & S. America, almost absent from Africa and Australia, in Malaysia none native.