Shrubs, trees, or herbs. Leaves simple, alternate or opposite, deciduous or evergreen, exstipulate. Flowers usually small and inconspicuous, in terminal cymes or panicles, or amentaceous or capitate with a coloured involucre. Calyx-tube adherent to the ovary. Petals none, or 4 or 5, rarely more. Stamens 4 or 5. Fruit drupaceous, 1- to 4-celled, or with 1 to 4 1-seeded stones. A small order of about seventy-five species, widely scattered throughout the world, but most abundant in the temperate regions of the north.