Herbs, shrubs or rarely trees. Leaves sessile or petiolate; stipules absent. Inflorescences mostly terminal racemes or spikes, occasionally thyrsiform or paniculiform below; bracts 1-3, at base of pedicel; bracteoles randomly inserted along pedicel. Flowers bisexual, or unisexual and dioecious; sessile or pedicellate; tepals 5, free, equal or subequal; stamens (5-)8-22(-33), in 1 or 2 whorls, on a hypogynous disk; ovary 5-16-carpellate, carpels free or united, ovule 1 per carpel, basal, campylotropous, styles free, spreading or appressed-recurved. Fruits aggregations of 1-seeded drupelets ("berries") or syncarpous 5-16-loculed berries; seed 1 per cell, reniform or subreniform, black, shining, endosperm mealy, embryo curved or annular.