Herbs, mostly with a thalloid or mycelium-like body, parasitic on lowermost branches or roots of other plants. Leaves scale-like. Flowers unisexual, rarely hermaphrodite, solitary or in spike-like heads. Perianth simple, petaloid, fleshy, with 4-10 segments connate at base. Stamens 8 to many; anthers sessile, 2-celled. Ovary inferior to half-inferior, 4-8-carpelled, 1-celled, with parietal placentae and many ovules; style 1 or 0; stigma discoid, capitate or lobed. Fruit baccate. Seeds many, minute, with endosperm and indistinct embryo.