Evergreen or deciduous shrubs or rarely small trees; branchlets never spine-tipped, often pubescent or tomentose. Leaves simple, alternate, entire, short-petiolate; stipules present. Inflorescence a cymose cluster, terminating lateral spurs, or flowers solitary. Flowers small, numerous, bisexual, white or pink. Sepals 5, small, persistent in fruit; petals 5, clawed; stamens c. 20; carpels 2–5, free on ventral side, enclosed within and united to receptacle, walls bony in fruit, ovules 2 per carpel. Fruit a small globose pome with mealy flesh, red (in Victoria) or black, persistent; pyrenes 2–5.
About 50 species, from northern temperate regions of Europe and Asia; 6 species naturalised in Australia.
Several species are cultivated as ornamentals, and several have become naturalised from this source, usually by bird-dispersed seed.