Mostly bulbous plants. Bulbs formed by foliage leaf bases or thickened cataphylls. Foliage leaves 1-many, filiform, elliptic or circular. Inflorescence scapose simple raceme or rarely a spike or compound raceme, 1-many flowered, generally bracteate. Flowers not articulated from the pedicel, actinomorphic, rarely zygomorphic, hermaphrodite, hypogynous, trimerous. Tepals 3 + 3, polyphyllous or more or less gamophyllous, white, blue, red, yellow, brownish or greenish; inner and outer more or less similar. Stamens 3 + 3, sometimes 1 whorl sterile, sometimes epiphyllous; anthers introrse, dehiscing longitudinally. Pistil, tricarpellary, syncarpous, trilocular, inner septal nectaries present, style with simple or sometimes thickened stigma. Capsule with loculicidal dehiscence. Seeds variable in shape and colour.
A family of c. 67 genera and 900 species (Speta in Kubitzki, Fam. Genera Vasc. Plants 3: 261. 1998) with greatest diversity in S. Africa and Mediterranean, widely distributed in NW Europe, Central Asia and E. Asia, two small subfamilies extending to N. and S. America. Represented in Pakistan by 7 genera and nine species.
Acknowledgement: We are grateful to the Directors/ Curators of the following herbaria for herbarium and library facilities and for sending the specimens on loan: BM, E, K, LINN and RAW. Special thanks are due to Brian Mathew (Kew) for going through the manuscript and offering valuable suggestions. We gratefully acknowledge financial support for this publication from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and National Science Foundation (DEB 0103783), Washington, U.S.A. obtained through the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, U.S.A. We are grateful to Professor Peter H. Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden for his assistance in securing the support. Grateful thanks are due to Professor Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, Vice-Chancellor, University of Karachi and Professor Shahid Shaukat, Chairman, Department of Botany, University of Karachi for providing working facilities to the project and for their understanding and encouragement.
This issue is funded in part by the US National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.