Perennial herb, leaves and flowers annual, dormant in summer; corm globose or ovoid, with outer layers fibrous to papery. Leaves 1–several, basal or sub-basal, ensiform, linear to linear-ovate, flat to subterete, tough. Inflorescence with non-flowering part erect, usually with a few reduced leaves, terete, robust, unbranched, with flowers distichous or secund; primary bracts green, keeled. Flowers zygomorphic; perianth tube ± curved, funnel-shaped, lobes ± unequal; stamens orientated such that all anthers displaced to one side of the perianth, arched, anther linear, slightly sagittate, versatile; style thread-like, divided into 3 entire branches. Capsule ellipsoidal to ovoid, papery to leathery; seeds numerous, flat and winged.
About 180 species in Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe and south-western Asia. Hybrids derived from South African species are commonly cultivated and 15 species are naturalised in Australia, 7 in Victoria.