Shrubs or climbers, or trees to 20 m tall. Branches terete, slightly fleshy when young; areoles with spines; glochids absent. Leaves somewhat fleshy, sessile or petiolate, broad, flat, pinnately veined, estipulate. Flowers solitary, or in fasciculate, subcorymbose, racemose or paniculate inflorescences, stalked or sessile. Receptacle not produced into a tube beyond ovary, with numerous, ± leafy, often persistent scales. Perianth multiseriate; segments free, spreading or rotate, white to red, magenta or orange. Stamens numerous, inserted at base of perianth. Ovary (pericarpel) superior to inferior; placentas basal or parietal. Fruit globose, pear-shaped, or obovoid, fleshy, with or without scattered, leaflike scales. Seeds 2 to numerous; testa glossy black, brittle.
Seventeen species: tropical and subtropical America; five species cultivated as ornamentals in China, of which one species escaped from cultivation.