Dioecious, or rarely monoecious trees or shrubs often with a stellate, or sometimes simple or mixed, indumentum. Leaves opposite or alternate, sometimes anisophyllous, petiolate, stipulate, sometimes lobed, entire or toothed, with 2 or more basal glands on upper surface, and often pellucid-gland-dotted on upper and lower surfaces, penni- or palminerved. Inflorescence s unisexual, spicate, racemose or paniculate, terminal, subterminal or axillary, few- to many-flowered; male flowers commonly in fascicles along the axis, female flowers 1-2 per bract. Male flowers : calyx usually globose in bud, later valvately (2)3-4(5)-partite; petals absent; disc glands absent or many, free, dispersed amongst stamens; stamens many, on a slightly elevated receptacle, filaments free, anthers subdorsifixed with a variable connective, longitudinally dehiscent; pistillode absent or rarely minute. Female flowers : calyx shallowly to deeply imbricately or valvately 3-5(-10)-lobed, persistent, or subspathaceous and caducous; petals absent; disc absent; ovary (2)3(4)-locular, with 1 ovule per locule; styles free or connate at base, simple, recurved, papillose or plumose. Fruit s globose or (2)3(4)-lobed, smooth or echinate, dehiscing septicidally into bivalved cocci leaving a +/- 3-winged persistent columella; endocarp crustaceous. Seed s globose or ovoid, ecarunculate, outer testa slightly fleshy or soft, inner testa crustaceous, smooth or rugulose, endosperm fleshy, cotyledons broad, flat.
Species +/- 140, Old World, in the Indo-Pacific area, with 2 species in trop. Africa; sthn trop. Afr. 1: Mallotus oppositifolius (Geisel.) Mull.Arg., Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique.