Climbing or prostrate, annual or perennial, monoecious or
dioecious, herbs, less often woody lianes, rarely erect
herbs without tendrils. Leaves alternate, palmately veined
and often palmately lobed. Tendrils usually 1
at each node, rarely 0. Flowers unisexual, epigynous,
axillary. Glandular bract-like "probracts" sometimes present at
base of peduncles. Petals usually 5, free or united; corolla
usually actinomorphic. Stamens basically 5 but commonly modified;
staminodes often present in female flowers. Ovary inferior,
1(-3)-locular. Style with 2 or 3 lobes or styles 3. Fruit a
capsule, berry or hard-shelled pepo.
Worldwide: 120 genera and 775 species, mainly in tropical and warm areas, with a few temperate species.