Perennial herbs, often with bulbs, tubers or rhizomes, sometimes undershrubs. Leaves simple, equitant (except in Crocus), with parallel nerves. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, in cymes, spikes or panicles, sometimes very contracted or flowers solitary, bracteate and with 1 or 2 spathes. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic to zygomorphic, often marcescent. Tepals free or united into a tube, in 2 whorls, the inner ones rarely inconspicuous ( Patersonia). Stamens 3 or exceptionally 2 with 1 staminode (in the Australian Diplarrhena), free or united into a tube, basifixed or dorsifixed, opposite to the outer tepals. Ovary inferior (or superior in the Tasmanian Isophysis), 3-celled with axillary placentas; style entire or trifid, sometimes tepaloid; stigmas 3 or 6, terminal or sometimes axillary, alternating with or opposite to the outer tepals; ovules generally numerous. Fruit capsular, dehiscing loculicidally, apically or irregularly. Seeds angular, flat or globose, sometimes winged. Distribution. Cosmopolitan, with c. 60 genera and c. 800 spp., predominantly in the tropics and the southern hemisphere. In Malesia: only two Australasian genera each with 1 sp., and four exotic ones introduced and naturalized.