Annual, perennial herb,occasionally strongly scented, odor generally unpleasant; Leaves, simple to pinnately lobed or compound; petioles generally sheathing; basal +/- whorled; cauline opposite, petioled to sessile; Inflorescence a cyme, panicle, or head-like, generally +/- dense; Flowers, generally bisexual; calyx fused to ovary tip, limb 0 or lobes generally 5-15, coiled inward, plumose in age, pappus-like, spreading in fruit; corolla radial to 2-lipped, lobes generally 5, throat generally > lobes, > tube, base generally spurred or swollen, tube slender, long or short; stamens generally 1-3, fused to petals; ovary inferior, chamber generally 1, or occasionally 3 but 2 empty or vestigial; Fruit an achene, smooth, ribbed or winged. (Moore, A.J. & Dempster L.T).
About 17 genera, 300 species; generally temperate, worldwide except Australia. Some species cultivated (Centranthus), some medicinal (Valeriana). (Bell and Donoghue 2005 Organisms Diversity Evol 5:147-159 - Scientific Editors Douglas H Goldman, Bruce G. Baldwin).