A large family, widely distributed, most of them natives of temperate regions; chiefly herbs, with bitter juice, sometimes narcotic and poisonous; without stipules; the flowers usually irregular; the calyx usually with four or five divisions, sometimes split on the lower or upper side, or on both sides; the corolla with united petals, nearly regular or two-lipped, two of the lobes forming the upper lip, which is sometimes beaklike, and three lobes forming the lower lip; the stamens on the corolla and alternate with its lobes, two or four in number, two long and two short, and sometimes also a fifth stamen which often has no anther, the anthers two-celled; the ovary superior, usually two-celled, the style slender, the stigma sometimes forked; the fruit a pod, splitting from the top into two parts and usually containing many seeds. This is a curious and interesting family, its members very dissimilar in appearance, having expressed their individuality in many striking and even fantastic forms.

There are several kinds of Maurandia, perennial herbs, climbing by their slender twisted leaf-stalks and occasionally also by their flower-stalks; the leaves triangular-heartshaped or halberd-shaped, only the lower ones opposite; the flowers showy, purple, pink, or white; the corolla with two lines or plaits, instead of a palate, which are usually bearded.