Not a large family, widely distributed, most abundant in the northern hemisphere; herbs, with opposite leaves and no stipules; flowers usually perfect, rather small, in clusters; the calyx sometimes lacking, or small, but often becoming conspicuous in fruit; corolla somewhat irregular, tube sometimes swollen or spurred at base, lobes united and spreading, usually five; stamens one to four, with slender filaments, on the corolla, alternate with its lobes; ovary inferior, with one to three cells, only one containing an ovule, the others empty; style slender; fruit dry, not splitting open, containing one seed.

There are many kinds of Valerianella, much alike, distinguished principally by their fruits.