Habit and leaf form. Herbs; deciduous. Leaves well developed, or absent (in the epiparasite C. sp. Hopetoun). Plants succulent (leaves and tubers fleshy), or non-succulent; autotrophic, or saprophytic (now considered epiparasitic). Perennial. Leaves basal (attached at ground level to flowering stem in flowering plants). Tuberous (tubers small, fleshy, usually obovoid). Helophytic, or mesophytic. Leaves medium-sized to very large; fleshy; petiolate; simple. Leaf blades entire; rolled (channelled), or solid; when ‘solid’, solid/angular (triquetrous); linear; parallel-veined; cross-venulate, or without cross-venules. Leaf blade margins entire. Vernation conduplicate. Leaf anatomy. Hairs absent. Stem anatomy. Secondary thickening absent.
Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite. Unisexual flowers absent. Plants hermaphrodite. Entomophilous (scollid wasps), or pollinated by unusual means (self-pollinating). Pollination mechanism conspicuously specialized (the labellum emits pheromones, sexually attracting the large male wasps and transfer of pollen occurs whilst the male attempting to mate with the flowers).
Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’. Inflorescence few-flowered to many-flowered. Flowers in racemes (loose). The terminal inflorescence unit racemose. Inflorescences scapiflorous, or not scapiflorous; terminal. Flowers small to large; odourless; very irregular; zygomorphic; resupinate. The floral asymmetry involving the perianth and involving the androecium. Flowers 3 merous; cyclic; supposedly basically pentacyclic. Perigone tube absent. Perianth of ‘tepals’, or with distinct calyx and corolla; 6; 2 -whorled; isomerous (but zygomorphic); free; without spots, or spotted; dull coloured, green and red, or green and brown, or green and purple, or yellow and red. Calyx (if the outer whorl be so designated) 3 (the median member ostensibly posterior); 1 -whorled; polysepalous. Corolla (i.e. the members of the inner whorl) 3; polypetalous; imbricate. Androecium 3, or 1 (by misinterpretation). Androecial members free of the perianth; united with the gynoecium (fused with the style to form a column or ‘gynostemium’; column short); coherent (via the gynostemium); 1 - adelphous; theoretically 2 -whorled. Androecium including staminodes, or exclusively of fertile stamens (by misinterpretation). Staminodes 2 (these anterior (ostensibly posterior), supposedly the abaxial pair of the inner whorl). Stamens 1 (this across the flower from the labellum, i.e. anterior but ostensibly posterior, supposedly representing the outer whorl); reduced in number relative to the adjacent perianth; alterniperianthial (i.e. with reference to the single stamen, across the flower from the labellum); filantherous, or with sessile anthers. Anthers dorsifixed to basifixed; dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; tetrasporangiate; appendaged, or unappendaged. Pollen shed in aggregates; in the form of pollinia (pollinia 2, very deeply grooved, resembling 2 pairs). Gynoecium 3 carpelled. The pistil 1 celled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth. Gynoecium syncarpous; eu-syncarpous; inferior. Ovary unilocular; 1 locular. The ‘odd’ carpel anterior (away from the labellum). Gynoecium stylate. Styles 1 (inflexed); apical. Stigmas 1; 3 - lobed (but becoming much modified in form, the apex of the median lobe forming the ‘rostellum’); wet type; papillate; Group III type. Placentation parietal. Ovules not differentiated; in the single cavity 30–100 (i.e. very numerous); non-arillate; anatropous.
Fruit and seed features. Fruit non-fleshy; dehiscent; a capsule. Capsules septicidal, or loculicidal. Fruit 30–500 seeded (i.e. seeds usually very numerous). Seeds endospermic (endosperm development arrested very early), or non-endospermic; minute; without starch. Embryo rudimentary at the time of seed release, or weakly differentiated. Seedling. Seedling collar not conspicuous. Primary root ephemeral.
Geography, cytology, number of species. Native of Australia. Not endemic to Australia. Australian states and territories: Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland. Northern Botanical Province and South-West Botanical Province.
Additional characters Perianth of 5 similar members and the median inner member modified into the labellum, or of 5 dissimilar members and the median inner member modified into the labellum (adaxial sepal erect, broad, concave; lateral sepals somewhat spreading, broad, acute; lateral petals smaller than sepals, more or less curved; labellum sessile, longer than sepals and other petals, entire, oblong at base, then expanding into an ovate or triangular limb). Leaves solitary. Leaves erect. Column prominently winged (the wings broad, produced and connate behind the anther but not concealing it). Labellum insect-like. Perianth not glossy. Labellum hairy (limb usually densely bearded with long hairs of metallic sheen), or with calli (or short glands, occasionally), or without ornamentation (one species only).