Herbaceous climbers bearing tendrils, or erect trees or shrubs. Leaves alternate, entire or lobed, often with a glandular petiole; stipules usually small and deciduous.
Flowers hermaphrodite or unisexual. Sepals 5, imbricate, persistent, free or partially united. Petals 5, rarely absent, free or shortly united, imbricate. Corona or one or more rows of thread-like processes or scales, or annular. Stamens 5 or more, hypogynous or perigynous, shortly united or in bundles, sometimes springing from the gynophore; anthers 2-celled, opening lengthwise. Ovary superior, 1-celled, with 3 or rarely 4-5 parietal placentas; ovules usually numerous; styles free or united; stigmas often capitate.
Fruit a capsule or berry, indehiscent or loculicidally 3-valved. Seeds with pitted testa, surrounded by a pulpy aril; endosperm fleshy; embryo large, straight.