Dioecious or hermaphroditic perennial herbs; stems short. Rootstock rhizomatous, plants sometimes epiphytic. Leaves simple, spirally arranged, usually densely pubescent, sessile, sheaths open or closed; venation parallel. Inflorescence a terminal racemose panicle, rarely few-flowered. Flowers unisexual or bisexual. Perianth membranous, often bract-like, in 2 whorls of 3(–7), fused or free. Stamens 6, free or fused basally to tepals; anthers basifixed to dorsifixed, dehiscing by longitudinal slits; female flowers with staminodes. Ovary superior, 1- or 3-locular, with up to 7 carpels; ovules several per locule; styles short or absent, stigmas 3 or 1 and 3-lobed; male flowers with a rudimentary ovary. Fruit a berry, rarely a capsule; seeds angular, sometimes with mucilaginous hairs.
4 genera and about 35 species, from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Mauritius, Reunion and South America; 3 genera in Australia, 1 in Victoria.