Habit and leaf form. Shrubs, or lianas, or herbs. Herbs perennial; plants with neither basal nor terminal concentrations of leaves. Self supporting, or climbing. Leaves alternate; petiolate; simple. Leaf blades entire; elliptic, or ovate; pinnately veined; rounded at the base. Leaves without stipules. Leaf blade margins entire.
Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite, or functionally male and functionally female. Unisexual flowers present, or absent. Plants hermaphrodite, or monoecious.
Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in racemes, or in spikes, or in panicles. The terminal inflorescence unit cymose. Inflorescences terminal, or axillary, or terminal and axillary; racemes of cymes. Flowers bracteate; bracteolate. Bracteoles small, scarious or membranous. Flowers regular; cyclic. Free hypanthium absent. Hypogynous disk absent. Perianth sepaline; 5. Calyx present; 5; polysepalous; regular; green, or white, or yellow; persistent; with the median member posterior. Sepals elliptic. Corolla absent. Fertile stamens present, or absent. Androecium 5. Androecial members markedly unequal; coherent; 1 - adelphous (the filaments basally connate forming a shallow cup); 1 -whorled. Stamens 5; oppositisepalous. Anthers dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; bilocular. Pollen shed as single grains. Fertile gynoecium present, or absent. Gynoecium 2–3 carpelled. The pistil 1 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; synovarious to synstylovarious; superior. Ovary unilocular; 1 locular; sessile. Gynoecium non-stylate (stigmas sessile). Stigmas 2–3. Placentation basal. Ovules in the single cavity several; non-arillate; campylotropous.
Fruit and seed features. Fruit fleshy; indehiscent; a berry (thin-walled); several-seeded. Seeds discoid with emarginate base; non-endospermic (strictly speaking). Perisperm present (abundant, mealy). Embryo well differentiated. Cotyledons 2. Embryo curved. Testa smooth (usually shiny).
Additional characters Stigmas the stigmatic area globose, or linear (clavate).