Profusely branched shrubs or dwarf trees. Leaves opposite, sessile or subsessile, entire, glabrous or hairy. Inflorescence pedunculate or sessile, of dense racemose clusters, often with a terminal female flower surrounded by several male flowers. Flowers greenish-yellow, unisexual (plants monoecious), sessile to shortly pedicellate. Sepals 4-6, unequal. Stamens 4, free, inserted on receptacle around vestigial ovary, anthers oblong with thick connective, dehiscing longitudinally. Ovary tricarpellary, syncarpous, 3-loculed, each locule 2-ovuled; styles 3, rarely basally connate, spreading, short, stigma 2-lobed. Capsule coriaceous, ovoid, 3-beaked with persistent styles, dehiscing into 3, 2-seeded and 2-horned valves. Seed caruncled, somewhat triangular or oblong, glossy-black; embryo with oblong cotyledons.
About 70 species; distributed in Eurasia, Middle East, Tropical and South Africa, Madagascar, Indo-Pakistan subcontinent to East Asia, Philippines and Sunda Isles; West Indies and North and Central America.