Trees [or large, sprawling shrubs], (3-)8-10(-15)m. Bark whitish gray. Stems erect [to prostrate]. Leaf blade deep green, shiny, obovate to oblanceolate, thick, leathery, base acute, apex rounded, notched, or blunt; oil cells possibly evident as pellucid dots, emitting strong aromatic odor when broken, causing sharp burning sensation on tongue when bitten. Inflorescences of 5-40 flowers, crowded toward end of stem. Flowers bisexual, protogynous; sepals green, imbricate, thick; petals basally connate, dark red to violet, lighter at base, thick; stamens 10; filaments connate into tube surrounding pistil, tube protruding slightly beyond anthers and nearly equal to length of petals; anthers extrorsely dehiscent; pistil flask-shaped; ovary conic; style short; stigma 2-lobed. Berry changing from green through red to dark purple with age, globose, fleshy. Seeds shiny, hard. x=14.
Tropical regions in North America, West Indies, and ne South America.
Species 1 (1 in the flora).
An early report of a second species in the Maracaibo region of Venezuela and reports of either species in Colombia appear unfounded.