Perennial herbs or shrubs. Leaves basal, lobed to pinnatissect. Inflorescences of terminal spikes. Flowers subtended by a large spinose bract and a pair of bracteoles; calyx 4-lobed and bilabiate, the lateral lobes small; corolla 1-lipped by reduction of the upper lip, 3-lobed; stamens 4, shorter than corolla; anthers connate in pairs. Fruit a capsule.
About 30 species, mostly from temperate areas of Europe and Asia but 2 species (mangroves) extending to northern Australia. Several species are grown for ornament.