Mostly large herbs, often tree like in appearance and then the caudex sometimes semiligneous, the stout stem unbranched usually sheathed by the petioles; leaves large, alternate, sometimes distichous, entire, pinnately veined, convolute; inflorescence a spike or panicle or sometimes capitate, subtended by spathaceous bracts that may be large and coriaceous or semisucculent, and sometimes cymbiform; flowers bisexual or unisexual, each borne in the axil of a bract, irregular, the perianth present of 6 parts in 2 series, the segments unequal in size and shape, distinct or variously connate; stamens basically 6, one usually a staminoidum and the other 5 fertile, anther 2 celled, narrowly linear, pistil 1, the ovary inferior, trilocular, the placentation axile, the ovules solitary and seeming basal in each or numerous and clearly axile, anatropus, the style 1 and filiform, the stigmas usually 3 each sometimes; fruit 3 celled capsule or longated berry; seeds often arillate with endosperm.