A family of annual and perennial herbs, shrubs, and climbers, many of which are halophytes. The leaves are simple, either in a basal rosette or alternately placed along a branched stem. They have water or chalk glands in their surface, and no stipules. The inflorescence is a cyme, raceme, spike, or densely clustered head, with the bracts sometimes forming an involucre. The flowers are bisexual and regular, with the parts in fives. The calyx is fused, 5-lobed, and often coloured. The petals are free or basally fused. The stamens are either free, or fused in the base of the corolla, and placed opposite the petals. The ovary is superior, with 5 fused carpels, and unilocular. The stigmas and styles are in fives. The fruit is a nut, usually enclosed in the persistent calyx, with the seeds containing a floury endosperm. Several species are of medicinal value and many are grown as ornamentals, particularly in rock or scree gardens. There are 22 genera, with about 440 species, found throughout the temperate and tropical regions, mainly coastal.
Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry.