Much-branched, erect or rambling shrubs, armed with axillary spines. Leaves opposite, often with rudimentary stipules, simple, quite entire. Flowers in axillary or terminal racemes or panicles, or in axillary fascicles, unisexual (monoecious or dioecious) or sometimes partly bisexual, actinomorphic, 4-merous. Calyx campanulate, 4-lobed or 2—4-partite. Petals 4, free, imbricate in bud, oblong or lanceolate. Disk absent. ♂: Stamens 4, alternating with the petals, longer than the corolla, in ♀ reduced to staminodes; filaments slender, free or connate at the base; anthers oval, cells 2, back to back, opening longitudinally; no rudimentary ovary. ♀: Staminodes 4, not exceeding the corolla, anthers barren. Ovary superior, globose, 2-celled or imperfectly 4-celled; ovules 4, erect from the base; style short or almost absent; stigma subsessile, large, deeply bifid. ♀ like ♀, but with 4 perfect stamens. Berry globose; with a thin endocarp. Seeds 1-3, erect, flat, orbicular, exalbuminous; cotyledons cordate, thick; testa coriaceous. Distr. Few spp. in tropical and subtropical Africa and tropical Asia, one extending into West Malaysia.