Annual or perennial herbs, shrubs ; leaves opposite, whorled or alternate mostly persistently usually simple and entire, fleshy estipulate; flower bisexual, actnomorphic the inflorescence cymose, of lateral cymes, or a monochasium, bracteate; perianth of calyx and corolla, the sepals 4-30, the petals of same number as sepals, distinct, stamens typically in 2 whorls usually as many or twice as many petals distinct, generally petals usually borne on the corolla tube; the anthers 2 celled, dehiscing longitudinally, introrse; gynoecium of 3-more distinct or basally connate pistils, each subtended by an hypogynous scalelike nectiferous gland, the ovary superior, 1 loculed, 1 carpelled, ovules many or rarely few, the placentation parietal, the style 1, usually linear, the stigma 1; fruit a follicle; seeds with straight embryo and usually with the endosperm fleshy and scant.

     The family is characterized in general by the gynoecium composed of usually as many pistils as there are petals, by a like number of stamens in each whorl, by the presence of a scale like gland at the base of each pistil and by the usually fleshy or succulent character of stem and foliage.