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17 genera of which are 3 marine. Monoecious, dioecious, gynodioecious or trioecious, annual or perennial, freshwater or marine herbs. Stems elongate or contracted, simple or complexly branched. Leaves very variable, with or without petioles and stipules, with (1-) 2-10 or more small scales (squamulae intravaginales) in the leaf axils. Inflorescence complex or flowers solitary, subtended by 1 or 2, free or united bracts (collectively called a spathe). Flowers bisexual or unisexual, the males sometimes abscising from the parent. Sepals 3 or less, rarely absent. Petals 3 or less, minute to large and showy, or absent. Stamens 1 to numerous, often staminodial. Ovary inferior, 3-20 or more carpels; placentas parietal or without dissepiments; styles simple or forked ; fuit a berry or capsule.

Christopher D.K. Cook