Herbs or subshrubs [shrubs], perennial. Stems ± erect, highly branched, terete, less than 1 m, fleshy [becoming woody basally], glabrous [hairy]. Leaves opposite, 2-foliolate [even-pinnately compound or simple]; stipules deciduous [persistent], ± herbaceous [membranaceous], triangular, apex acute; petiolules absent; leaflets 2[–10], opposite, distinct, obovate, flat [terete], equal, base oblique, apex rounded [acute or obtuse], fleshy, surfaces glabrous [hairy]. Pedicels in leaf axils, reflexed downward [erect]. Flowers 1–2, slightly irregular by twisting of petals [regular]; sepals deciduous or persistent, [4–]5, distinct, green, often unequal, margins often membranous, apex rounded [obtuse to acute], glabrous; petals deciduous, [0 or 4–]5, imbricate, ± erect, slightly twisted [not twisted to twisted], white or yellow [orange], base red-orange [same as rest of petal], obovate, base clawed, apex rounded; nectary annular; stamens [8–]10, ± equal; filaments free, subulate, each with basal scale; anthers ovate; ovary sessile, [3–]5-lobed, [3–]5-locular, glabrous; ovules [2–]10 per locule; style persistent, not forming beak on fruit; stigma minute. Fruits capsules, oblong-cylindric [to globose], [4–]5-angled [or winged], septicidally dehiscent [indehiscent]. Seeds [1–]10 per locule, gray-brown, obovoid [ovoid].
Introduced; Eurasia, n, s Africa, Australia.
Species ca. 70 (1 in the flora).
The common name of Zygophyllum results from the pickled flower buds of several species being used as substitutes for capers (Capparis spinosa Linnaeus, Capparaceae) in flavoring foods.