Small to stout, solitary or clustered, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palms. Stem erect, usually ± prominently ringed, internodes glabrous, scaly, or densely tomentose, sometimes with exposed roots at the base. Leaves pinnate, sometimes irregularly so, or entire and pinnately ribbed, spreading to ascending; sheaths sometimes partly open but forming a prominent crownshaft, variously scaly and tomentose; petiole short to moderate, channelled adaxially, rounded abaxially; rachis angled adaxially, abaxially rounded; leaflets soft or coriaceous when dry, ± regularly arranged, acute, single or several-fold, or the blade undivided except at the apex, bearing small dotted scales over ribs and surface abaxially (scales large and dense in Basselinia vestita), scales usually only on veins adaxially, midrib prominent, abaxially bearing ramenta fixed to one side, lateral and marginal veins prominent or not, transverse veinlets not evident. Inflorescences infrafoliar, branched to 1 or 3 orders; peduncle short or elongate; prophyll incompletely or completely encircling the peduncle, shortly 2-keeled laterally, rather thin, open abaxially; peduncular bract tubular, complete, not or somewhat exserted from the prophyll, ±beaked; rachis longer than the peduncle; rachis and rachillae glabrous to scaly or tomentose; bracts subtending the branches, rachilla, and triads low, rounded to acute, flowers sometimes obscured by hairs; rachillae moderate, stiff, ± spreading, bearing flowers horizontally aligned in triads in the lower 1/2 – 3/4 or more, and paired or solitary staminate flowers distally; bracteoles surrounding the pistillate flower equal or unequal, brown, sepal-like. Staminate buds symmetrical; sepals 3, distinct, imbricate, ±acute to rounded; petals 3, distinct, valvate; stamens 6, filaments connate at the very base, inflexed at the apex in bud, anthers dorsifixed, bifid at the base and apex, latrorse; pistillode nearly as high as or exceeding the stamens in bud, angled-cylindrical, narrowed to slightly expanded at the apex. Pollen ellipsoidal asymmetric, sometimes elongate or lozenge-shaped; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, psilate-perforate, perforate and micro-channelled or finely perforate-rugulate, aperture margin similar or slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis 29–48 µm [8/12]. Pistillate flowers smaller than, equaling or larger than the staminate; sepals 3, distinct, imbricate, rounded; petals 3, distinct, imbricate except for the briefly valvate apices; staminodes 3 at one side of the gynoecium, small, tooth-like; gynoecium unilocular, uniovulate, stigmas 3, prominent, recurved, ovule ± pendulous, sometimes briefly arillate, usually hemianatropous. Fruit globose to elongate-ellipsoidal, sometimes bilobed, red or black, with lateral to apical stigmatic remains; epicarp smooth or drying pebbled, mesocarp with a thin layer of small, irregular tannin cells external to a thin layer of short sclereids over abundant ellipsoidal tannin cells and a few flat, thin fibres, endocarp thin, vitreous, fragile, sometimes minutely reticulate, with a rounded to elongate basal operculum. Seed globose, kidney-shaped or ovoid-ellipsoidal, hilum and raphe short to elongate, the raphe branches anastomosing laterally, rarely scarcely anastomosing, endosperm homogeneous; embryo basal or lateral below the middle. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll bifid (where known). Cytology not studied.
B. deplanchei, B. gracilis, B. pancheri and B. vestita form a very coherent group that share similar epidermal, hypodermal, mesophyll, and guard cell structure, and differ only in the distribution of fibrous strands and minor characteristics of midribs. The six species of section Taloua, except for B. sordida, are strikingly and distinctively fibrous, in contrast to the species of section Basselinia, which all have large amounts of tannin (Uhl and Martens 1980).