solitary or clustered, mostly slender and climbing, occasionally non-climbing.
Leaves 10-60, pinnate, spiny, sheaths closed in climbing stems, open in
non-climbers, variously hairy and spiny, pinnae variously arranged and shaped.
Plants dioecious. Inflorescence branched to 3 orders, branches and rachillae
covered with overlapping bracts, bracts variously armed. Male flowers : calyx cup-shaped, petals 3, stamens 6, pistillode minute.
Female flowers : calyx shallowly 3-lobed, petals 3, staminodes 6, ovary tipped with stigmas. Fruit variously
shaped and coloured, always covered with overlapping scales. Seed usually 1.