Herbs or vines. Stem slender, glabrous and fleshy. Leaves entire, alternate, succulent. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary spike, simple or branched, rachis thick or thin. Flowers bisexual, sessile or pedicellate. Perianth uniseriate; sepals 5, usually united from the base, imbricate, often coloured, lobes fleshy, pink, red or white. Corolla absent. Stamens 5, inserted opposite the sepals and adnate to their bases; filaments free, short, distinct; anthers dorsifixed, extrose, dehiscing longitudinally. Ovary superior, sessile, 1-locular, 3-carpelled, ovule shortly stalked, campylotropous. Styles slender, 3. Stigma usually 3; placentation basal. Fruit a baccate drupe, purple-black. succulent, surrounded by the persistent and often fleshy calyx. Seed subglobose, the embryo spiral or folded.
A genus with 5 species distributed in the Old World, among them three are endemic to Madagascar, one Basella paniculata Volkens is confined to southeast Africa and one Basella alba Linn. is cultivated in tropical regions of the world (D’Arcy, l.c.).