This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Herbs or shrubs. Leaves alternate, entire, exstipulate, commonly furnished with transparent dots. Flowers racemose, bisexual. Perianth inferior, sometimes coloured, frequently furnished with bracts at its base, giving it the appearance of a corolla; segments 4 or 5, free or slightly united. Stamens indefinite, or if of the same number as the perianth-segments alternate with them. Fruit baccate or dry, composed of a solitary carpel or several distinct or more or less united, each carpel 1-seeded. A small order comprising about eighty species divided into twenty genera, mostly natives of the warmer parts of America.