Trees, shrubs, sometimes scandent, unbranched suffrutices or rhizomatous geophytes, sometimes succulent, glabrous, from less than 10cm to over 40 m tall. Aerial stems often showing characteristic persistent leaf scars. Leaves alternate, distichously or spirally arranged, entire, ovate, strap-shaped or ensiform, usually amplexicaul with a sheathing base, occasionally exceeding 2 m in length, usually much shorter, sometimes variegated, the upper ones gradually to rather abruptly transformed into the inflorescence bracts. Inflorescence terminal, sometimes apparently axillary on leafless dwarf shoots, racemose, capitulate to paniculate; floral bracts and bracteoles often obsolescent. Flowers often grouped together on articulated pedicels with a longer or shorter pericladium, usually white, sometimes flushed with green or purple, fragrant, nocturnal. Perianth with a shorter or longer tube and 6 equal segments. Stamens 6, as long as the free perianth lobes and inserted at their base in the throat; filaments often inflated and spindle-shaped; anthers versatile, opening latrorsely. Ovary superior, cylindrical to bottle-shaped, with 3 locules, each containing a single ovule; septal nectaries present; the style equating the stamens; stigma capitate to shallowly 3-lobed. Fruit a thin-walled berry, (depressed-) globose or ellipsoid, sometimes 2- or 3-lobed, usually bright orange when ripe, containing up to 3 large seeds lacking a testa but enclosed in an obsolescent layer of sclerotic endocarp cells.