Monoecious or rarely dioecious annual or perennial herbs, shrubs or rarely trees. Indumentum usually simple, sometimes glandular. Leaves alternate, usually petiolate, stipulate, simple, often toothed and penninerved. Inflorescences termianal, axillary or both, uni- or bisexual, spicate, racemose or paniculate. Male bracts small and inconspicuous. Female bracts often foliaceous, accrescent, toothed or lobed. Male flowers small, shortly pedicellate; calyx closed in bud, later valvately 4-partite; petals and disc 0; stamens 8, filaments free, broad, anther-cells distinct, spreading or pendulous, oblong or linear, later flexuous-vermiform; pistillode 0. Female flowers pedicellate or sessile; calyx-lobes 3-4 (-5), small, imbricate; petals and disc 0; ovary (2-) 3-celled, with 1 ovule per cell; styles free or connate, filiform, laciniate or fimbriate, often reddish-hued. Allomorphic flowers usually terminate the inflorescences, having 1-celled ovaries. Fruit trilobate, small, dehiscing septicidally into 3 bivalved cocci. Seeds ellipsoid-subglobose, often with a ventral ridge; testa crustaceous; albumen fleshy; cotyledons broad, flat.