Plants trees or shrubs, usually bearing conspicuous spines at varying distances above the subtending leaves. Leaves alternate, 2-foliolate or reduced to simple, scale-like leaves; stipules triangular, usually falling early; leaflets entire. Inflorescences cymose. Flowers radially symmetric, bisexual, 4-5-merous; sepals free, imbrictae, ovate, usually falling off eventually, silky-hairy at least within; petals free, mostly glabrous; stamens 8-10, free, glabrous; disk fleshy, annular, longitudinally grooved, usually minutely papillose, surrounding the ovary; ovary superior, 4-5-celled, each cell containing 1 pendulous ovule; style glabrous. Fruits 1-seeded drupes, indehiscent or splitting at the tip, with a leathery or crisp and brittle exocarp, fleshy or spong mesocarp, and hard, woody endocarp.
Balanites has 9 species, two in India and Burma, the remaining seven extending from tropical Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and the Jordan valley.