Herbs or shrubs. Leaves simple, sometimes lobed or included; stipules small, glandular. Inflorescence a spike or a raceme. Flowers zygomorphic, 4-7-merous. Sepals 4-7 or more, often irregular. Petals absent or 4-7, sometimes fewer, alternating with the sepals, often with a membranous appendage attached at the base. Stamens 3-many, free or united at the base. Disc, if present, infundibuliform or cupular, hypogynous. Carpels 2-6, rarely free; ovary lobed, unilocular; placentation parietal with numerous ovules. Fruit a capsule or a berry. Seeds many, reniform to subglobose, small.
A family of 6 genera and c. 70 species found mostly in dry habitats in Africa, S. Europe, Middle East, Central Asia to SE. Asia and Eastern U.S.A.
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for financing this research under P.L. 480. Thanks are also due to Dr. K.H. Rechinger (Vienna), Messrs. B.L. Burtt, I.C. Hedge & Miss J. Lamond of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, for going through the manuscript and offering valuable suggestions.