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Monoecious or dioecious aromatic shrubs or trees, rarely herbs, often with prop roots; wood white, usually soft; stems with persistent leaf sheaths or with encircling leaf sheath scars; nodes swollen. Leaves fleshy to coriaceous when fresh; margins dentate; petioles with expanded bases forming a connate sheath around stem; distal margin of leaf sheath with or without stipular appendages. Staminate inflorescences composed of a solitary spike or with several spikes on a racemose or paniculate axis, subtended by a pair of leafy bracts; spikes with 50-300 flowers. Staminate flowers consisting of a solitary, sessile, ebracteate stamen; stamens quadrangular to oblong, 4-locular, longitudinally dehiscent, anther connective extended with apex, flat, acute or acuminate. Pistillate inflorescences solitary, thryse-like, racemose, or paniculate, subtended by leafy bracts; flowers solitary or more often clustered into cymules. Pistillate flowers consisting of an ellipsoidal or trigonous ovary, with perianth adnate to ovary with 3 free or partially fused lobes at apex of ovary, subtended by a chartaceous or fleshy floral bract that often encloses flower. Fruit a drupe with a fleshy wall formed by fused perianth or multiple with connate floral bracts becoming fleshy and colored (white or purple); seeds small, brown or black, ellipsoidal or trigonous, smooth or minutely papillate.


Guianas present, Northern America, SE Asia present, Southern America: Paraguay (Paraguay present)
About 44 species, mostly at mid-elevations from Mexico to Paraguay; 1 species in SE Asia; in the Guianas 1 species.