Erect or suberect shrubs; stems woody with annular leaf scars on younger growth. Leaves confined to upper parts of branches, apparently sessile or petiolate with sheathing bases. Inflorescence a terminal or lateral panicle. Flowers bisexual; sepals and petals each 3, similar, shortly united at base; staminal filaments attached at base of perianth segments; ovary superior; stigma capitate or 3-lobed. Fruit a berry; seeds few to many, black and shining.
About 20 species, mostly tropical but extending south to New Zealand in the Pacific region, also in Africa and South America; 8 native and 1 naturalised species in Australia, 2 naturalised in Victoria.