Herbs or shrubs, sometimes spiny (Berberis). Leaves alternate, simple or compound. Inflorescence a raceme or flowers solitary; flowers actinomorphic, bisexual. Sepals and petals overlapping in 2 or more rows; petals often modified to nectaries. Anthers opening by 2 apical hinged valves. Ovary superior, 1-locular. Fruit a berry or capsule.