Herbs, subshrubs, shrubs or rarely small trees, autotrophic rarely hemiparasitic. Leaves exstipulate, alternate, opposite or whorled. Inflorescence racemes, spike, solitary axillary or thyrsoid panicles. Flowers bisexual, usually zygomorphic bilabiate, rarely actinomorphic. Calyx (2)-4 or 5 lobed or parted. Corolla gamopetalous zygomorphic and often bilabiate or actinomorphic sometimes with a spur or pouch at base. Stamens epipetalous, mostly 4, didynamous or 2 rarely 5; sometimes 1 or 2 staminodes are present; anther locules 1 or 2 equal or subequal, free or confluent. Nectary often present at the base of the ovary, ringlike, copular or reduced to a gland. Ovary superior, bilocular, axile placentation, ovules numerous or sometimes few, style simple, stigma capitate. Fruit a capsule. Seeds numerous, variously ornamented.
The family is being considered here in a broader sense. However, the molecular systematic studies (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 2009*) have amply demonstrated that the family is grossly polyphyletic. Many genera have been shifted to Orobanchaceae, Phyrmaceae, Plantaginaceae, Linderniaceae and Paulowniaceae. As we have already published the accounts of Orobanchaceae (1976), Phyrmaceae (1973) and Plantaginaceae (1974) according to the formally accepted circumscription it seems best to treat the family Scrophulariaceae sensu lato.
*Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 161: 105-121.