Deciduous or evergreen, armed or unarmed, monoecious or dioecious trees or shrubs rarely climbers, herbs or hemi-epiphytic, with a milky latex. Leaves petiolate simple, entire, serrate or lobed, palmately or pinnately 3-5-costate; stipules 2, lateral, fugaceous and leaving a distinct annular scar. Inflorescence axillary cymes usually in the form of racemes, often catkins, globose heads, spikes or hypenthodium. Flowers minute, unisexual, actinomorphic, hypogynous to epigynous. Sepals (2-3-) 4 (-6), occasionally absent, biseriate, free, or valvate or ± united, enveloping the carpel in female flowers, persistent. Petals absent. Stamens as many as sepals, often less, antisepalous, filaments or erect in bud, free with dithecous, versatile, longitudinally dehiscent anthers; pistillode present or absent in male flowers. Ovary bicarpellate, one carpel frequently abortive, superior or inferior, unilocular, ovule solitary, anatropous campylotropous, pendulous from the apex, rarely basal and upright; styles 2 (-1), filiform, simple or forked. Fruit a simple drupe, nut or achene, or sometimes sorosis or syconium. Seeds surrounded by endocarp, endospermous or exalbuminous; embryo mostly curved.