These are evergreenshrubs. They have many shapes and sizes of leaves, and two general types of flowers apparently adapted for pollination by hummingbirds and insects. Some species occur at elevations over 4000 meters in the Andes, while others can be found at sea level.
Many are of ecological importance because they are dominant plant species in very dry habitat types, and local animals depend on them. Hummingbirds of the genus Oreotrochilus, the hillstars, rely heavily on these plants, and some species have never been observed on any other plant taxa.