Habit and leaf form. Herbs. ‘Normal’ plants, or plants of very peculiar form (achlorophyllous). Leaves absent. Plants succulent (stems and sepals fleshy); once thought to be saprophytic, the plants are now considered epiparasites, obtaining all their nutrients from associated soil fungi. Perennial; tuberous (large, underground tuberoid). Helophytic, or mesophytic. Stem anatomy. Secondary thickening absent.
Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite. Unisexual flowers absent. Plants hermaphrodite. Entomophilous (native bees). Pollination mechanism conspicuously specialized.
Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers solitary, or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’. The terminal inflorescence unit racemose. Inflorescences scapiflorous, or not scapiflorous; terminal. Flowers small to medium-sized; fragrant, or odourless; very irregular; zygomorphic; not 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, or 3 (by misinterpretation); 2 -whorled, or 1 -whorled (by misinterpretation); isomerous (but zygomorphic); joined (to form a pendulous bell, the sepals fused and the petals overlapping and existing only as free tips); yellow to brown (some species with white tips). Calyx (if the outer whorl be so designated) 3; 1 -whorled; gamosepalous. Corolla (i.e. the members of the inner whorl) 3; imbricate. Androecium 3, or 1 (by misinterpretation). Androecial members free of the perianth; united with the gynoecium (fused with the style to form a ‘gynostemium’); coherent (via the gynostemium); 1 - adelphous; theoretically 2 -whorled. Androecium including staminodes, or exclusively of fertile stamens (by misinterpretation). Staminodes 2 (these anterior, supposedly the abaxial pair of the inner whorl). Stamens 1 (this across the flower from the labellum, i.e. anterior, 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). 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, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, and Tasmania. 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 (the labellum 3-lobed, stalked, enclosed within the perianth tube). Labellum not insect-like. Labellum motile. Perianth not glossy.