Annual or perennial herbs, glabrous to hirsute. Rosette leaves densely clustered, petiolate, entire; cauline leaves alternate, widely spaced, sessile, reducing toward inflorescence. Inflorescences terminal and upper-axillary, of 1–several simple or branched monochasial scorpioid cymes; bracts absent (in Victoria). Flowers pedicellate, dense at first, becoming widely spaced in fruit; sepals 5, connate basally, usually strongly elongating with age; corolla regular, 5-lobed, funnel-shaped, with 5 saccate scales in throat, glabrous, blue, yellow or white, lobes spreading; stamens usually included in corolla-tube, anthers ellipsoid, subsessile; ovary 4-lobed, 4-celled, usually with a basal nectary, style filiform, stigma small, capitate. Fruit splitting into 4 mericarps, leaving a flat gynobase; mericarps ellipsoid, dorsiventrally compressed, usually with a sharp rim, attached by a small basal areole, smooth, shiny.
About 50 species, widespread in temperate regions of Europe and Asia, extending to South Africa and South-east Asia; 7 species in Australia (5 naturalized).