Suffrutices or shrubs, with annual or perennial stems, sometimes scrambling or climbing and often spiny. Rhizome typically covered with persistent erect cataphylls; tubers often present. Leaves much reduced, bract-like with a spiny or soft spur; leaf-like cladodes solitary or fascicled, linear to ovate, persistent or deciduous. Peduncles or pedicels articulated. Flowers solitary, fascicled or racemose, bisexual, hypogynous. Perianth segments in 2 whorls of 3, similar, free or (in asparagoides) fused into a tube below. Stamens 6. Ovary superior, 3-locular, with 2-12 axile ovules per loculus. Fruit usually a spherical or ovoid berry, sometimes a nutlet, the perianth segments often persisting below. Seeds 1-several, spherical, black.