Perennial herbs or twiners. Stem slender, fleshy, glabrous. Rhizome sometimes with fleshy tubers. Leaves simple, alternate, entire, often succulent, sessile or petiolate, exstipulate. Inflorescence of spikes, panicles or clusters. Flowers regular, bisexual or sometimes unisexual, sessile or pedicellate, bracteate; bracteoles 2 or 4. Perianth uniseriate. Sepals 5, often coloured, sometimes united basally, imbricate, persistent in fruit. Stamens 5, inserted opposite the sepals and adnate to their bases; anthers 4-locular, introrse, dehiscing longitudinally, filaments free, distinct, short. Ovary superior or half-inferior, 1, locular. Carpels 3; ovule one; placentation basal; styles usually 3; stigma 3 or 1. Fruit baccate or a drupe, sometimes winged. Seeds with spiral or folded-embryo, perisperm sparse.