Primary tabs



Perennial herbs, often with bulbs, tubers or rhizomes, sometimes undershrubs. Leaves simple, equitant (except in Crocus), with parallel nerves. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, in cymes, spikes or panicles, sometimes very contracted or flowers solitary, bracteate and with 1 or 2 spathes. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic to zygomorphic, often marcescent. Stamens 3 or exceptionally 2 with 1 staminode (in the Australian Diplarrhena), free or united into a tube, basifixed or dorsifixed, opposite to the outer tepals. Ovary inferior (or superior in the Tasmanian Isophysis), 3-celled with axillary placentas; Fruit capsular, dehiscing loculicidally, apically or irregularly. Seeds angular, flat or globose, sometimes winged.


Asia-Tropical, Cosmopolitan present, southern hemisphere present, tropics present
Cosmopolitan, with c. 60 genera and c. 800 spp., predominantly in the tropics and the southern hemisphere. In Malesia: only two Australasian genera each with 1 sp., and four exotic ones introduced and naturalized.
Many are cultivated in botanic gardens and occasionally in private gardens; see for an elaborate treatment .


This family is usually herbaceous, but in a few genera (Klattia, Nivenia, Patersonia, Witsenia) stems may be woody at the base. The leaves are equitant and are laterally compressed, the two halves are free at the sheathing base and gradually fused to the top. The flowers are actinomorphic to distinctly zygomorphic with intermediate forms, sometimes in the same genus.


Belamcanda chinensis and Eleutherinepalmifolia are used for medicinal purposes, probably mainly on account of their glucosides; cf. .