Annual or perennial herbs or small shrubs. Leaves fleshy or scale-like, opposite or alternate, exstipulate or with membranous stipules. Flowers usually bisexual, regular. Calyx tubular, 4-8 lobed. Petals more commonly absent or numerous and linear. Stamens 5 to many, the outer ones petaloid staminodes; filaments free or basally connate, anthers bilocular, dehiscing lengthwise. Pistil monocarpellary or 2-5 and syncarpous; ovary inferior or semi-inferior, 1-5 locular or many loculed; placentation axile, parietal or basal, with usually many ovules per locule. Fruit a berry, a loculicidal capsule or of 1-seeded dehiscent or indehiscent parts. Seeds endospermic.
A family of 128 genera and c. 1170 species, many of which are cultivated. S. and tropical Africa, S. America, W. Indies, Mediterranean and tropical Asia. Represented here by 8 species.
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to the United States Department of Agriculture for financing this research under P.L. 480. Thanks are also due to Mr. B.L. Burtt, Mr. I.C. Hedge and Miss J. Lamond of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, for going through the manuscript and for their helpful suggestions.