Herbs, annual or perennial, mycotrophic and white or purplish, or autotrophic and green. Roots subterranean, mycorrhizal, filiform or stoutly terete. Stems monopodial, unbranched or with few branches, erect, slender; rhizomes present or absent. Leaves present or absent, cauline or basal, alternate, simple, sessile, often scalelike, margins entire; stipules absent. Inflorescences terminal cymes, sometimes appearing racemose or capitate, or flowers solitary; each flower subtended by scalelike floral bract. Flowers: tepals 6, partially or wholly connate, tube persistent or caducous in fruit, limb lobes 3 in 1 whorl or 6 in 2 whorls, greenish, purple, or white, sometimes blue-tinged, often ribbed or winged, throat with or without annulus; stamens 3 or 6, sessile or subsessile; pollen sacs separated on appendaged connective or connective broadened and connate, forming ring proximal to annulus; pistil 1, ovary inferior, 1- or 3-locular; placentation parietal or axile; ovules numerous; style 1, 3-branched apically; stigmas 3. Fruits capsules, ovoid, obconic, or cup-shaped; dehiscence transverse, longitudinal by 3 valves, or irregular. Seeds numerous, minute.
Herbs, annual or perennial, small, mycotrophic, semi-mycotrophic, or autotrophic, often rhizomatous or tuberous. Leaves alternate, simple, entire; autotrophic species with basal rosette leaves; all with cauline leaves. Inflorescences terminal, many-flowered cymes or racemes, or flower solitary. Flowers bisexual. Perianth of 1 or 2 whorls and each whorl of 3 tepals, corolline, tubular or campanulate. Perianth tube often 3-angled or 3-winged; tepals sometimes appendaged; appendages terminal, elongated, slender. Stamens 3 or 6, if 3 then subsessile in perianth throat, if 6 then pendent in perianth tube; connectives large, often appendiculate. Ovary inferior, 1-loculed with parietal placentation or 3-loculed with axile placentation; ovules numerous, anatropous, bitegmic; style filiform, shortly cylindric, or conic; stigmas 3, sometimes connate. Fruit capsular, occasionally fleshy, with either persistent perianth tube and style or only persistent basal ring of perianth, dehiscence irregular or by transverse ventral slits. Seeds small, numerous; endosperm present.
Small herbs, usually saprophytic, rhizomatous or tuberous, usually lacking chlorophyll
Leaves alternate, simple, entire, sessile, clasping, often forming a rosette, the cauline leaves often scale-like; venation parallel or obscure
Seeds numerous, minute, subglobose, linear or ellipsoid; endosperm scanty or none
Inflorescence terminal, branched or reduced to 1 flower, racemose or cymose; bracts small
Fruit a capsule, crowned by remains of perianth, often 3- or 6-ribbed or -winged, opening apically or longitudinally between the placentas
Ovary inferior, 3-locular with axile placentas or 1-locular with parietal placentas, which sometimes detach and become suspended apically; sometimes with globose glands on either side of the placentas; ovules numerous, minute; style included, usually short, filiform to conical, shortly 3-lobed or capitate; stigmas sometimes with long filiform tails
Stamens 3 or 6, inserted at various heights, if 3, then opposite inner tepals; anthers dehiscing transversely or longitudinally, sessile or pendulous, 2-thecous; thecae sometimes divaricate and stipitate on the forked connective, which sometimes has apical and/or basal appendages
Perianth-tube open or constricted at the mouth, persistent or not; outer tepals valvate; inner tepals usually smaller, sometimes absent; tepals sometimes very long, narrowly triangular
Jonker, F. P. 1938. A monograph of the Burmanniaceae. Meded. Bot. Mus. Herb. Rijks Univ. Utrecht 51: 1–279. Leake, J. R. 1994. Tansley review no. 69. The biology of myco-heterotrophic (‘saprophytic’) plants. New Phytol. 127: 171–216. Maas, P. J. M. et al. 1986. Burmanniaceae. In: Organization for Flora Neotropica. 1968+. Flora Neotropica. 75+ nos. New York. No. 42. Wood, C. E. Jr. 1983. The genera of Burmanniaceae in the southeastern United States. J. Arnold Arbor. 64: 293–307.