Perennial herbs with short, rather stout rhizomes; Leaves 3-ranked, basal and usually one to several higher on the stem, subcoriaceous or herbaceous, conduplicate at the base, very acute, with 3 more prominent nerves, linear to lanceolate; Inflorescence terminal, paniculate, more or less corymbose, sometimes contracted into a single capituliform cluster. Flowers hermaphrodite, strongly dorsiventrally compressed. Stamens 2, in the axils of the scales (in some extra- Mal. spp. stamens 3). Ovary terminal.
Pantropic. In absence of a monograph the number of good species is unknown; it has usually been estimated at c. 50, but this seems much too high, judging from the numerous reductions which I felt compelled to make for the Malesian species.
Originally Hypolytrum L. C. RICH. as well as Hypaelyptum VAHL (in all probability a mutilation of RICHARD'S name) and Tunga ROXB. comprised species partly belonging to Hypolytrum partly to Lipocarpha in the present sense. No generic distinction was made between Hypolytrum and Lipocarpha as in both genera two hypogynous scales are found. However, the median scales in Lipocarpha are morphologically quite different from the transversal, sharply keeled, usually connate, ciliate scales in Hypolytrum, the latter in my opinion homologous with the cladoprophyll generally present at the base of the branches in Cyperaceae.