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Evergreen, monoecious or dioecious trees or shrubs with irregular whorled branched. Leaves opposite or alternate, varying in size, some scale-like and imbricate, others distichous. Male flowers solitary, fascicled or spicate, forming dense narrow cylindrical catkins, anthers sessile, spirally crowded. Female flowers solitary or few spicate, stalked or sessile, axillary or terminal, usually with 2-4 scales, one bears a fertile scale folded over and united to an inverted ovule, the sterile scales often develop a swollen, fleshy, brightly coloured edible receptacle on which the drupe or nut-like seed is seated. Seed small, globose or ovoid, outer seed-coat fleshy, the inner woody.