Erect or procumbent multi-stemmed shrubs; branchlets terete, opposite or whorled, grooved longitudinally. Leaves minute, scalelike, opposite or in whorls of 3. Male flowers in spikes, filaments fused into staminal column. Female flowers solitary or in whorls of 3, subsessile at nodes. Ovules solitary, erect, with a tube-like throat projecting from the perianth. Inner bracts becoming fleshy, yellow or red at maturity.
About 40 species, most from the Northern Hemisphere; 1 historically naturalised in Victoria, although now thought to be extinct.