Perennial shrubs (rarely vines). Leaves usually opposite, simple, entire or toothed; stipules small, usually caducous. Inflorescences racemose, paniculate or flowers solitary and axillary; bracts leaf-like. Flowers usually actinomorphic; hypanthium usually much prolonged; sepals 4, petaloid, caducous; petals 4; stamens 8; ovary 4-celled. Fruit a pendulous berry, indehiscent; seeds few to numerous.
About 100 species, mainly from Central and South America, but also New Zealand and Tahiti; 1 species naturalised in south-eastern Australia.