Trees or shrubs, evergreen or deciduous (mostly semi-deciduous in Victoria), monoecious or andromonoecious. Leaves alternate, 3-nerved from base; stipules membranous, free, caducous. Inflorescences axillary on new shoots, commonly males in lower axils, females above; male inflorescences of few-flowered clusters, flowers pedicellate; female inflorescences of solitary subsessile flowers. Perianth of 4, 5 or 6 free, scarious segments; stamens as many as perianth segments, pistillodes sometimes present in male flowers. Bisexual and female flowers (if present) solitary, pedicellate; style bifid; staminodes present in female flowers. Fruit a drupe, the woody endocarp sometimes ridged or or pitted.
About 100 species, from tropical and temperate regions almost worldwide; 6 or 7 species native in Australia, at least 3 naturalised from horticulture.