Common name. Early Nancies. Family Colchicaceae.
Sometimes included in Liliaceae - Colchiceae.
Habit and leaf form. Herbs. Perennial (above ground parts annual). Leaves basal, or cauline. Plants with a basal concentration of leaves, or with neither basal nor terminal concentrations of leaves. Young stems erect, unbranched, herbaceous, or absent. To 0.3 m high; bulbaceous, or cormous (elongated, tunicated). Many in seasonally wet areas. Leaves alternate; spiral; sessile; sheathing; simple. Leaf blades entire; linear, or lanceolate; ovate (to lanceolate), or linear; parallel-veined; without cross-venules; upper 1 or 2 leaves have tubular sheathing bases, may have basal cup-shaped dilations enclosing the immature inflorescences. 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, or functionally male and functionally female, or hermaphrodite and functionally male, or functionally male, or functionally female. Unisexual flowers present, or absent. Plants hermaphrodite, or monoecious, or andromonoecious, or dioecious. Female flowers with staminodes, or without staminodes. Male flowers with pistillodes. Floral nectaries present. Nectar secretion from the perianth, or from the androecium.
Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers solitary, or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in spikes. The terminal inflorescence unit cymose, or racemose. Inflorescences scapiflorous, or not scapiflorous; terminal; scape unbranched; in dioecious species male and female flowers more or less similar; in andromonoecious species the male flowers and inflorescences, and the female flowers and inflorescences similar. Flowers sessile; bracteate, or ebracteate; ebracteolate; small to large; regular; 3 merous; cyclic; pentacyclic. Perigone tube present. Perianth of ‘tepals’; 6 (usually); 1 -whorled; joined; petaloid; without spots, or spotted; similar in the two whorls (in size and form); white, or yellow, or pink, or purple (patterned), or brown (patterned). Fertile stamens present, or absent. Androecial members definite in number. Androecium 6–8. Androecial members adnate (to the tepals); all equal; free of one another; 1 -whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 6(–8); all more or less similar in shape; diplostemonous; adnate to the base of the perianth, opposite the perianth segments; alterniperianthial. Anthers dorsifixed, or basifixed (almost, rarely); versatile; dehiscing via longitudinal slits; almost latrorse, or extrorse; tetrasporangiate. Gynoecium 3(–4) carpelled. The pistil 3 celled, or 4 celled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth. Gynoecium syncarpous; synovarious to synstylovarious; superior. Ovary plurilocular; 3 locular, or 4 locular (when the perianth segments number 7 or 8); sessile. Gynoecium stylate. Styles 3; free to partially joined; apical. Stigmas 3. Placentation axile. Ovules 10–25 per locule; anatropous to campylotropous.
Fruit and seed features. Fruit non-fleshy; dehiscent (in the distal half); a capsule. Capsules septicidal and loculicidal. Fruit 3 celled; few per locule. Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Cotyledons 1 (conspicuously coleoptile-like). Embryo straight. Testa without phytomelan.
Etymology. After F. von Wurmb, merchant, and secretary of the Academy of Sciences of Batavia in the 18th century.