A large family, widely distributed, growing usually in salty or alkaline soil; herbs or shrubs, generally succulent and salty or bitter, often covered with white scurf or meal, without stipules; leaves thick, usually alternate, sometimes none; flowers perfect or imperfect, small, greenish, without petals; calyx with two to five sepals, rarely with only one, pistillate flowers sometimes with no calyx; stamens as many as the sepals, or fewer, and opposite them; ovary mostly superior with one to three styles or stigmas; fruit small, dry, with one seed, sometimes with a bladder-like covering. Spinach and Beets belong to this family; many are "weeds," such as Lamb's Quarters.

There are two kinds of Grayia, named after Asa Gray; low shrubs; the stamens and pistils in separate flowers, on the same or on different plants.