Annual or perennial herbs or shrubs. Flowers zygomorphic, papilionaceous, in terminal or lateral racemes, rarely solitary. Sepals unequal, 5, the 3 outer ones usually sepaloid (see note below) and the 2
inner ones (wings) larger and petaloid. The sepals are
either all free or the 2 anterior ones are united. Petals 3(-5),
the lowest one (the keel) usually crested; two lateral ones
usually vestigial or 0, and 2 upper ones joined at the base to
the keel. Stamens 8 (rarely 4 or 5), sometimes only 6 fertile
with 2 staminodes. Ovary 2-locular. Fruit a flattened, capsule. Seeds 2, usually with a caruncle and
with sericeous indumentum.
Of the three outer, sepaloid
sepals, two are anterior and one posterior. It is helpful to examine these plants when fresh and to note whether the anterior
sepals are free or united. If they are united, note also if there are 8 fertile stamens or 6 fertile and 2 staminodes.
Worldwide: c. 500 species, ± cosmopolitan
Zimbabwe: 2 cultivated taxa.