Bulbous, perennial, odorous herbs. Roots fibrous. Leaves annual or biennial, linear, flat, terete or angular, solid or hollow, entirely basal or some cauline. Inflorescence a terminal umbel subtended by a spathe of several distinct or united bracts; flowers bisexual, sometimes replaced by bulbils; perianth segments free or shortly fused, equal; stamens 6, filaments filiform to flattened, anthers dehiscing introrsely; ovary superior, 3-locular; ovules usually 2 per locule; style inserted at base of ovary, stigma minute. Fruit a membranous capsule; seeds angular, black, usually 3–6 per capsule.
About 700 species, from the Northern Hemisphere, principally from western to central Asia; 8 naturalised in Australia with several others cultivated and occasionally persisting, 5 naturalised in Victoria.