Evergreen (or deciduous) shrubs or trees. Buds perulate (or naked); innovations flush-wise. Leaves simple, spirally arranged (rarely opposite), usually penninerved, less often 3—5-plinerved, with entire, crenate-serrate or dentate margins, often slightly oblique at the base. Indument often stellate, tufted or lepidote. Stipules usually present, very small to large. Flowers free or connate, in heads, spikes or racemes, ♀, polygamous or unisexual and monoecious (rarely dioecious), usually actinomorphous, usually 4—5-merous, with alternate whorls of floral parts. Sepals usually small or lacking. Petals often linear or ligulate, often rolled in bud, sometimes lacking. Stamens free, often in two whorls, the inner ones staminodial; anthers almost always basifix; connective often produced. Disk if present annular or represented by small lobes. Ovary consisting of 2 (exceptionally 3) carpels often free at the apex, 2-celled, usually more or less inferior; styles 2, free, long, less frequent short, often recurved, frequently persistent and hardened in fruit; stigmas small and apical or adaxially decurrent along the styles. Ovules 1-2 and pendent or 5-~ and inserted on the dissepiment (or parietal), anatropous, with 2 integuments. Capsules 2-celled, in the lower half connate with the receptacle to various degree, rarely superior or perigynous, usually loculicidal and septicidal, hence 4-valved, endocarp often loosening from the exocarp. Seeds 1-~ (in the latter case only very few fertile), sometimes winged; albumen rather thin, embryo straight, cotyledons leaf-like, radicle short. Distr. Mainly holarctic in the Old World; temperate and warm temperate, but also in Africa and Madagascar, in South East Asia (absent in the Deccan Peninsula and Ceylon, similarly as Fagaceae!), throughout Malaysia, in Australia very rare in N. Queensland ( Ostrearia and an unnamed genus), absent from the Pacific Islands, S. America, and Europe. The present centre of development in Asia, specially China.