Erect, often climbing or scrambling, much-branched, rhizomatous perennial herbs. Roots tuberous or fibrous. Aerial stems annual, rarely perennial. Leaves reduced to bracts subtending a number of axillary cladodes. Inflorescence an axillary raceme, or flowers solitary or clustered in bract axils. Flowers bisexual or unisexual, petals and sepals free, similar; pedicels articulated; stamens 6, anthers basifixed; ovary superior; style filiform, stigma capitate to trifid. Fruit a berry; seeds ovoid to sub-globose, shiny, black.
About 120 species, predominantly from Africa, Europe and Asia; 12 species in Australia (1 native, 11 introduced), 6 species naturalised in Victoria. Several species are cultivated either as ornamentals or in the case of A. officinalis for its edible shoots.