Seed basally attached; endosperm deeply ruminate; embryo basal.
Flowers hermaphrodite, inconspicuous, sometimes fragrant; calyx campanulate or tubular, 3-lobed; corolla campanulate or tubular, longer than the calyx, with 3 acute lobes; stamens 6, epipetalous, joined by their filaments to form a staminal tube, with free filaments apically; anthers basifixed
Inflorescence axillary, branched to 3–4 orders; prophyll tubular, 2-keeled; subsequent bracts tubular, closely sheathing, occasionally empty, the distal subtending branches; branches with or without 2-keeled prophyll; rachillae often hairy, bearing flower-clusters in the axils of minute bracts; flower-clusters with 1–5 flowers, each borne in the axil of a minute bracteole
Fruit ovoid or spherical, normally developing from 1 carpel only; endocarp leathery to woody
Gynoecium of 3 carpels almost free below, united apically into a common style; carpels uniovulate
Petioles almost absent to moderate in length, usually flattened above, rounded below in cross-section, armed with marginal spines, often covered in indumentum and wax; adaxial hastula usually present, often enormously elaborated, with spiny margins; leaf-blade often waxy, partially divided into induplicate segments, sometimes further divided for a short distance to produce cleft tips; outer margin of blade sometimes spiny