Dioecious trees, trunk usually unbranched, covered with persistent petiole stubs. Leaves forming dense crown at top of trunk, imparipinnate, with numerous, folded, narrow linear pinnae, the lowermost usually spine-like; petiole much shorter than lamina. Inflorescence an axillary, much-branched panicle, initially enclosed by a spathe-like bract. Flowers sessile in bract axils; outer perianth segments fused; inner free; stamens usually 6; carpels 3, free, 2 usually aborting. Fruit an ovoid berry. Seed single, woody, grooved longitudinally.
About 17 species, from the Mediterranean area, Africa and warmer parts of Asia; 3 species naturalised in Australia.