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Annual, biennial or perennial herbs, rarely suffruticose; stems usually erect, branched, glabrous or pubescent. Leaves opposite or whorled; sessile at swollen nodes; stipules conspicuous, scarious; blade usually linear-subulate or lanceolate, rarely elliptical or spathulate. Inflorescences terminal dichasial cymes, often contracted or capitate; bracts scarious. Sepals 4-5, free, scarious or rarely herbaceous with scarious margin; petals 4-5, entire or dentate, shorter than sepals; fertile stamens 4-5, staminodes 4-5, filaments free or connate at base; ovary ovoid, sessile or shortly stipitate, 1-locular, ovules few, campylotropous on basal placenta, style 3-fid, 3-dentate, or capitate and 3-sulcate. Fruit a 3-valved capsule, ovoid or ellipsoid; seeds 1-few, cochleate, oblong or reniform, smooth or tuberculate.


Guianas present, tropical and subtropical areas of the Old and New Worlds present
Approximately 30 species in tropical and subtropical areas of the Old and New Worlds; 1 species in the Guianas.