Not a large family, widely distributed; shrubs or herbs; leaves alternate or from the root; flowers perfect; sepals and petals few, many, or none, generally in several overlapping rows; stamens on the receptacle, usually as many as the petals and opposite them; pistil one, with a short style, or none; fruit a berry or capsule.

There are several kinds of Vancouveria, perennial herbs with slender, creeping rootstocks; named after Vancouver the explorer.