Herbs, shrubs or trees, sometimes dioecious. Leaves alternate, simple. Inflorescence a terminal or lateral raceme; flowers bracteate, unisexual or bisexual; perianth segments 4 or 5, free, sometimes unequal; stamens 3–many, hypogynous in bisexual flowers, staminodes sometimes present in female flowers; carpels 1–many, free or fused; styles and ovules 1 per carpel. Fruit a nut, achene, drupe or berry.
20 genera and c. 100 species, tropical, mainly American; 3 genera and 5 species (1 native) in Australia.