Trees, shrubs or herbs. Leaves opposite, decussate, simple; petioles connate at base, stipulates present, petiolar; blades pinnately veined, usually glabrous, margins dentate. Inflorescences capitate, spicate or racemose, axillary or terminal. Flowers small, unisexual (monoecious or dioecious) or bisexual, without perianth or with 3-lobed calyx, subtended by 1-3 bracts or ebracteate; stamens 1-3, in bisexual flowers adnate to ovary, anthers 2- or 4-locular, linear to oblong, opening with longitudinal slits, connective often expanded or extended. Pistillate and bisexual flowers epigynous, hemi-epigynous or naked; carpel 1, stigma sessile, ovule 1, orthotropous. Fruit a berry with a hard seed coat or a drupe with a fragile, stony endocarp (Hedyosmum); seeds with well-developed starchy endosperm, embryo small with 2 minute cotyledons.