Perennial, rarely annual (not in Victoria), herbs or shrubs; branches slender and wiry. Leaves alternate, small, simple, usually entire, green or yellow-green. Inflorescence a panicle, raceme (neither in Victoria) or flowers solitary in leaf axils; peduncle united with leaf-base. Flowers small, bisexual, shortly pedicellate, white inside, yellowish outside; bract and 2 bracteoles usually present; tepals 4 or 5, campanulate or tubular, united at base, free portion with hair tuft inside at base or behind stamens; stamens 4 or 5, inserted on tepals; ovary inferior, ovules 3, style slender, stigma capitate. Drupe small, dry, nut-like, usually ribbed, green, crowned by persistent tepals.
About 250 species, in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America; 1 species in Australia.