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Small epiphytic, epilithic, or terrestrial, succulent herbs, creeping, prostrate, hanging, ascending or erect. Leaves alternate, opposite or in whorls or 3-7 per node; pinnately or palmately veined. Inflorescences terminal, leaf-opposed or axillary spikes, solitary or few together, occasionally paniculate; flowers numerous, loosely or less often densely arranged, sometimes partly sunken in the rachis; rachis glabrous (but hairy in P. tetraphylla); floral bracts peltate, mainly rounded, glabrous, often glandular. Stamens 2, filaments short, anthers 2-locular; ovary with 1 style and stigma, or stigma sessile. Fruits minute nuts or drupes (“berries”), (sub)basely or laterally attached, sessile or somewhat stipitate when mature, occasionally somewhat sunken in rachis, smooth or sticky, globose, ellipsoid or cylindrical, apex obliquely scutellate or truncate, with or without a slender beak, stigma apical, central or at base of beak.


Guianas present, Neotropics present, Pantropical present
Pantropical, ca. 1000 species, ca. 500 in the Neotropics; 30 species in the Guianas of which 4 endemics.


According to Burger (1971: 7), the viscid layer of the fruit may in drying give rise to structures like the "pseudopedicel". It may also be effective in the formation of the beak that is present in several taxa. This beak, however, is also distinct in living collections (G. Mathieu pers. comm.).