Small to moderate, rarely solitary, usually clustered, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious tree palms. Stem slender or relatively stout, erect or decumbent, brown or grey, sometimes swollen basally, leaf scars prominent or obscure, adventitious roots present or absent. Leaves regularly or irregularly pinnate, or undivided, curving or erect; sheath tubular, splitting opposite the petiole, usually not forming a distinct crownshaft, but crownshaft sometimes evident in Prestoea acuminata, often scaly or tomentose, becoming glabrous; petiole usually elongate, rarely short, often slender, channelled adaxially, rounded abaxially, both surfaces densely dark tomentose or scaly, rachis channelled at the base, flat to ridged adaxially, rounded abaxially, densely tomentose (?always); leaflets long, narrow, opposite or subopposite, regularly arranged in one plane, shorter basally and distally, sometimes curved, tips pointed, edges often thickened, single-fold or several-fold distally or in partly entire leaves, midribs of folds prominent adaxially, other veins small, ± equal or 1–2 pairs slightly larger, blade adaxially ± glabrous, abaxially lightly tomentose, whitish dot-like hairs usually abundant, large to small tattered scales along the midrib and sometimes along larger veins, often waxy, transverse veinlets not evident. Inflorescences usually interfoliar in bud, becoming infrafoliar at anthesis or in fruit, branched to 1 order or rarely spicate; peduncle short or more usually elongate, longer than the rachis; prophyll usually persistent, markedly shorter than the peduncular bract, tubular, 2-keeled laterally, ± flat, splitting apically and dorsi-ventrally so as sometimes to appear bifid, inserted at the base of the peduncle, chartaceous to coriaceous, variously scaly; peduncular bract usually persistent, several times longer than the prophyll, terete, with a long hard beak, usually inserted some distance above the prophyll, chartaceous or coriaceous; rachis bearing spirally arranged, short, thin, membranous or stiff, rounded or pointed bracts, each subtending a rachilla; rachillae white at anthesis, usually becoming reddish in fruit, slender, moderate to elongate, erect at first, becoming divaricate or stiffly ascending, sometimes markedly swollen or bulbous basally, rachis and rachillae densely covered with soft pale hairs or with dark red or brown tomentum or glabrous; rachilla bracts very shallow, membranous, subtending triads of flowers basally and paired to solitary staminate flowers distally, flowers superficial or in a slight depression, triads with the staminate flowers only slightly larger than and lateral to the pistillate, rarely (Prestoea longepetiolata var. cuatrecasasii) the pistillate flower surrounded by 2 large bracteoles. Staminate flowers symmetrical or asymmetrical, ovoid, stalked or sessile; sepals 3, distinct and shortly imbricate basally or united in a low cupule, margins smooth or hairy with tufts of hairs at the tips, usually keeled to some extent; petals 3, ovate, distinct, valvate, tips valvate or appressed, margins smooth or hairy with tufts of hairs at the tips; stamens 6, filaments terete, briefly inflexed at the apex, anthers linear, acute or bifid apically, sagittate or free basally, dorsifixed slightly below the middle, latrorse; pistillode columnar or trifid, light or dark. Pollen ellipsoidal, with slight or obvious asymmetry; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, finely perforate, or perforate-rugulate, aperture margin similar or slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis 26–46 µm [7/10]. Pistillate flowers broadly ovoid; sepals 3, distinct, imbricate, rounded, margins smooth or hairy; petals 3, distinct, broadly imbricate, rounded, tips valvate; staminodes 6, small, tooth-like; gynoecium ovoid, asymmetrical, unilocular, uniovulate, style not evident, stigmas 3, appressed or reflexed, ovule large, basal, form unknown. Fruit rounded, dark purple to black at maturity (?always), perianth persistent, stigmatic remains subapical or near the middle; epicarp smooth or slightly irregular, mesocarp fleshy, with an inner layer of wide flat fibres, endocarp thin, crustaceous. Seed globose, laterally attached, hilum elongate, raphe branches numerous, anastomosing to form a network, endosperm ruminate or rarely (P. longepetiolata var. cuatrecasasii) homogeneous; embryo subbasal. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll bifid (e.g., P. acuminata) or pinnate (e.g., P. decurrens). Cytology: 2n = 36.