Sometimes included in Liliaceae - Colchiceae.
Habit and leaf form. Herbs. Perennial (above ground parts annual). Leaves basal and cauline. Plants with a basal concentration of leaves, or with neither basal nor terminal concentrations of leaves. Young stems simple, herbaceous. Cormous (tunicated, black). Disturbed areas. Leaves alternate; spiral, or distichous; sessile; sheathing. Leaf sheaths tubular. Leaves simple. Leaf blades entire; linear, or lanceolate; parallel-veined; without cross-venules. Leaves without stipules. Leaf blade margins entire. Leaf anatomy. Hairs absent. Extra-floral nectaries absent. Stem anatomy. Secondary thickening absent.
Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite. Unisexual flowers absent. Plants hermaphrodite. Floral nectaries present. Nectar secretion from the perianth, or from the androecium.
Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers solitary, or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in racemes. The terminal inflorescence unit cymose, or racemose. Inflorescences scapiflorous, or not scapiflorous; terminal; inflorescence 1–8 flowered, sometimes almost a spike. Flowers pedicellate; bracteate; ebracteolate; small to large; regular; 3 merous; cyclic; pentacyclic. Perigone tube absent. Perianth of ‘tepals’; 6; 1 -whorled, or 2 -whorled; if two whorled, isomerous; free; petaloid; without spots, or spotted; similar in the two whorls (in size and form); yellow (inside), or orange to red (outside), or purple (at the base). Androecial members definite in number. Androecium 6. Androecial members adnate; all equal; free of one another; 1 -whorled, or 2 -whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 6; all more or less similar in shape; diplostemonous; on the lower part of the perianth at the junction of claws and blades; alterniperianthial. Anthers dorsifixed; versatile; dehiscing via longitudinal slits; almost latrorse, or extrorse; tetrasporangiate. Gynoecium 3(–4) carpelled. The pistil 3 celled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth. Gynoecium syncarpous; synovarious to synstylovarious; superior. Ovary plurilocular; 3 locular; sessile. Gynoecium stylate. Styles 3; free; apical. Stigmas 3. Placentation axile. Ovules 20–50 per locule (numerous); anatropous to campylotropous.
Fruit and seed features. Fruit non-fleshy; dehiscent; a capsule. Capsules septicidal. Fruit 20–100 seeded (many). Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Cotyledons 1 (conspicuously coleoptile-like). Embryo straight. Testa without phytomelan.