Evergreen or deciduous shrubs to small trees, sometimes scandent, mostly glabrous. Leaves opposite or subopposite, sometimes some also alternate or whorled, entire to serrulate or crenate; stipules slender, caducous. Inflorescences axillary, cymose. Flowers bisexual, 4- or 5-merous; sepals green; petals usually coloured, yellow to purple, exceeding sepals; disc prominent, annular, 4- or 5-lobed. Stamens usually inserted on disc; anthers longitudinally or obliquely dehiscent, introrse. Ovary 4- or 5-locular; ovules mostly 2 (but up to 12) per locule. Fruit capsular, sometimes winged, lobed or prickly, loculicidally dehiscent. Seeds usually 1 or 2 per locule, ellipsoid, partly or completely enveloped by the fleshy, usually coloured, aril.
A genus of c. 130 species, native to Asia, Australia, Europe, Madagascar, North America; tropical and temperate areas; 1 species native and 2 naturalised in Australia.