Stems solitary or clustered, tall to short or subterranean, ringed with conspicuous leaf scars. Leaves 4-12, pinnate or occasionally undivided; leaf sheaths closed, forming a distinct, green or yellowish crownshaft, rarely sheaths open and not forming crownshafts; rachis sometimes strongly recurved, mostly spreading horizontally; pinnae usually regularly arranged, spreading in same plane, those at apex joined with only short splits at apices, giving compound pinnae with lobed apices. Inflorescences branched to 3 orders, borne below crownshaft; prophyll present, peduncular bract absent; flowers unisexual, borne in triads of a central large female flower and 2 lateral much smaller male flowers, usually triads only at bases of rachillae, above male flowers only. Fruits usually bright red, small to moderate, ellipsoid to globose or spindle-shaped, commonly beaked, 1-seeded; endosperm ruminate; germination adjacent; eophylls bifid.
Germination adjacent-ligular; seedling leaf bifid.
Seed with ruminate endosperm and basal embryo
Fruit varying from very small to large, with stigmatic remains apical; epicarp smooth, often brightly coloured; mesocarp fibrous or fleshy; endocarp hard, somewhat woody, with longitudinal fibres
Female flower much larger than the male, with imbricate rounded sepals and petals; staminode vestiges minute or absent; ovary unilocular, tipped with 3 massive reflexed stigmas, usually with copious nectar at anthesis; ovule 1, basally attached
Minute to large, solitary or clustered, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palms, almost always with a well-defined crownshaft
Leaves reduplicately pinnate, sometimes flabellate or undivided, often with compound leaflets composed of many folds
Inflorescence axillary, usually infrafoliar but occasionally interfoliar, anthesis usually occurring after leaf fall, branching to 3 orders; prophyll enclosing the inflorescence in bud, splitting and usually falling at anthesis; peduncular bracts absent; rachillae bearing basal triads of flowers, each with 1 central ♀ flower and two lateral ♂ flowers, and distal paired or solitary, 2 ranked or spiral ♂ flowers