Perennial fibrous-rooted rhizomatous or bulbous herbs. Leaves simple, entire, linear to broadly ovate, basal or cauline. Flowers radially symmetrical, bisexual, numerous, in terminal scapose racemes or panicles.Tepals 3+3, free; individual flower stalks not articulated. Stamens 6, free or attached to the base of the tepals. Ovary superior to inferior, 3-chambered with numerous ovules. Fruit a many-seeded, dry dehiscent capsule. Seeds yellowish to brown.
Closely related families include the Colchicaceae and Trilliaceae.
12 genera from the temperate Northern Hemisphere, one extending to S America.
Most genera are poisonous, and several are used medicinally or as a source of insecticide.
Plants with relatively small, unspotted, 6-parted, non-articulated flowers with persistent tepals and basally attached, outward-facing anthers and capsular fruits with brown seeds.
Source: (2005). Melanthiaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 5. Flowering plants. Monocotyledons. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.