Shrubs or trees, evergreen. Leaves opposite, simple, margins entire, lower surface usually with a dense covering of peltate scales, petiolate. Inflorescences axillary or rarely terminal panicles or clusters. Flowers usually bisexual, white, often yellowish or greenish; calyx campanulate, 4-lobed, persistent in fruit; calyx-lobes triangular-dentate; corolla shortly tubular and 4-lobed, or absent, lobes (when present) valvate; stamens 2, attached near top of corolla-tube, exserted at anthesis; ovary ovoid, 2-celled, ovules 1 per cell, style short, stigma 2-lobed. Fruit a drupe; seed 1 (rarely 2).
About 40 species, from Europe, Africa through Asia to New Zealand; 2 species in Australia, 1 native and 1 naturalised.