Trees, shrubs, climbers, erect, prostrate or procumbent annual-perennial herbs. Stems cylindrical or quadrangular, unarmed or rarely spiny-prickly. Raphides often present. Leaves opposite or less often verticillate, decussate, simple, mostly entire very rarely toothed. Stipules inter- or intmpetiolar, mostly persistent, distinct, free, or connate and sheathing, sometimes leaf-like, and forming whorls of 4-10 foliar stipules which am sometimes smaller than true leaves, scale-like or filiform, forming glandular setae. Inflorescence various, mainly different forms of dichasial cymes, thyrsoid, spike or head, corymbose, paniculate or solitary. Bracts present or absent. Flowers usually bisexual, rarely unisexual, usually actinomorphic, very rarely zygomorphic or ± bilabiate, 4-6-merous. Calyx 4-5 (or more)-lobed; tube mostly adnate to the ovary, limb (3-) 4-5 (-8)-lobed or toothed, sometimes only minutely so, with valvate, imbricate or contorted aestivation becoming enlarged after anthesis and persistent in fruit. Corolla 4-5 (-10)-lobed, gamopetalous, infundibuliform, campanulate or rotate, lobes twisted, valvate-induplicate or rarely imbricate in bud. Homostylous or heterostylous with 2 or rarely 3 forms. Stamens generally equalling and alternating with the corolla lobes, epipetalous; anthers 2-celled, introrse, usually distinct, dehiscing longitudinally. Disc mostly present, annular or cushion shaped. Ovary inferior, rarely sub-inferior-superior, generally 2-loculed, rarely 3-5 or more loculed. Ovules solitary-numerous in each locule; placentation exile or apparently basal (rarely parietal in Gardenia). Style simple or branched, stigmas linear, filiform or capitate or bilobed. Fruit a loculicidal or septicidal capsule, berry or a drupe, or of 2 dehiscent or indehiscent cocci or mericarps; rarely syncarps (Nauclea & Morinda), 1-many seeded. Seeds rarely winged, the endosperm entire or ruminate, usually copious and fleshy or cartilaginous, absent in Guettardeae.