Perennial, rhizomatose, sometimes stoloniferous herbs; rhizomes with a red latex. Leaves parallel-veined, distichous, equitant, linear to ensiform, mainly radical, sheathing at the base, longitudinally connate towards the apex. Inflorescence a terminal, bracteate thyrse, the partial florescences lax or dense cincinni, indument composed of simple hairs. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic to zygomorphic, shortly pedicellate, tepals 6, arranged in 2 whorls, imbricate, free or basally connate, petaloid, subequal; stamens 3, unequal, inserted at the base of the inner tepals, filaments short, glabrous, anthers dithecic, basifixed, introrsely and longitudinally dehiscent, staminodes 0-2, inserted at the base of the outer tepals; ovary superior, 3-locular, ovules 3-∞ per locule, anatropous, with axile placentation, style filiform, persistent, stigma small, simple to slightly 3-lobulate. Fruit a 3-locular loculicidal capsule; seeds 2-∞ per locule, tuberculate, with abundant starchy endosperm.
Africa: Guinea (Guinea present), Australasia, Neotropics present present, South Africa present, U.S.A present
About 80 species in 14 genera, in South Africa, Australia, New Guinea, and the Neotropics; 4 genera comprising 5 species in the Neotropics, 1 of which also occurring in the U.S.A.