Annual or perennial, saprophytic or autotrophic herbs; the saprophytic species often colourless. Leaves usually spread or alternate, entire, simple, without stipules; non-saprophytic species with a radical rosette of linear leaves; stem leaves often reduced to small scales; sometimes the basal part of the stem provided with many decurrent, grass-like leaves. Flowers ♀♂, usually actinomorphic, solitary or in capitate or cymose inflorescences. Perianth corolline; limb consisting of 2 whorls; tube sometimes 3-winged. Anthers 3, subsessile in the perianth throat and dehiscing laterally with horizontal slits,or 6, hanging down in the perianth tube and dehiscing with longitudinal slits. Connective large, often appendiculate. Style filiform or shortly cylindrical or conical. Stigmas 3, sometimes connate. Ovary inferior, 1-celled with parietal placentation, or 3-celled with axile placentation. Ovules ~, anatropous, with 2 integuments; funicles often rather long. Fruit usually capsular, sometimes fleshy, crowned by the persistent perianth tube and the style, or by a thickened persistent basal ring of the perianth tube, dehiscing irregularly or with transverse slits at the top. Seeds ~, small, subglobose to linear, sometimes with loose, reticulate testa, with endosperm. Distr. About 125 species, widely distributed in the tropics of both hemispheres, also in subtropical America, Chicago area, Moçambique, Southern China, Japan, Southern Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. As many species are rare, it is possible that only a part of their area is known. Most of them are found in moist regions. Among the autotrophic Malaysian Burmanniaceae there are 3 rather common species which are widely spread, viz Burmannia coelestis, B. disticha and B. longifolia. The latter two are absent from Java and the Lesser Sunda Islands, the former occurs in Java proper only in its western part. Of the saprophytic Malaysian species only 3 have been often collected, viz Burmannia championii, B. lutescens, and Gymnosiphon affinis.