Plants small to medium sized, tufted, gregarious. Stems short, irregularly branched, occasionally with tomentum on proximal stem or throughout; in transverse section rounded, central strand absent or weakly differentiated, cells small, thin-walled. Leaves somewhat crowded, spreading when wet, incurved and variously twisted or contorted when dry; costate; apex broadly acute to rounded, mucronate to hair-pointed; margins plane to weakly recurved or incurved on one or both sides, more or less entire to crenulate or serrulate; costa single, subpercurrent to long-excurrent, awn when present smooth, hyaline; laminal cells distally quadrate or rhombic, walls incrassate, generally papillose on both exposed surfaces with several large, branching or C-shaped papillae or distinctly mammillose; marginal cells sometimes longer proximally forming a very weak border; basal laminal cells long-rectangular, thin-walled, generally smooth, cross walls frequently distinctly colored. Sexual condition autoicous or dioicous. Seta generally elongate or short, smooth, brown to red or dark red to blackish red. Capsule mostly long-exserted, erect, cylindric, smooth or distinctly furrowed; gymnostomous or peristomate, cells at capsule mouth quadrate, thickened, reddish, exothecial cells long-rectangular, thin-walled, stomata at base of urn, phaneroporous; peristome single, double or absent, exostome teeth long, narrow, papillose or reduced to small, irregular projections, endostome segments reduced, narrow, frequently adhering to exostome or when peristome is single frequently well developed, lanceolate, basal membrane pronounced in some taxa; operculum mostly conic-rostrate, beak erect. Calyptra large, campanulate, completely covering capsule, smooth or papillose distally, frequently only on rostrum, base erose, lacerate or fringed, fringe small or well developed. Spores generally large, more or less round, but with distinct faces, papillose to warty, or ridged.
Genera 2, species ca. 34 (2 genera, 15 species in the flora): throughout the Northern Hemisphere with a few widespread species in montane habitats worldwide, North America, Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia (China, Japan), Africa, Indian Ocean Islands (Madagascar), Pacific Islands (New Zealand), Australia.
In the flora area the family Encalyptaceae is distinguished by a massive and persistent calyptra completely covering the capsule. Other characteristics such as habitat, spore ornamentation, and broad leaves with papillose or mammillose distal leaf cells help to define the group, but these characters are shared with other acrocarpous mosses. Reference should be made to the detailed treatment of D. G. Horton (1982, 1983) for the North American taxa.