The families of flowering plants

L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz

Hyacinthaceae J.G. Agardh

~ Former Liliaceae-Scilloideae, cf. Asparagaceae-Scilloideae of APG III.

Including Eucomidaceae Salisb., Lachenaliaceae Salisb., Scillaceae von Vest

Habit and leaf form. Herbs. Perennial; with a basal aggregation of leaves; bulbaceous (usually), or rhizomatous (Chlorogalum, Schoenolirion). Mesophytic. Leaves alternate; spiral (always?); sessile; sheathing. Leaf sheaths with free margins. Leaves simple. Lamina entire; linear, or lanceolate, or ovate (rarely), or orbicular (rarely); parallel-veined; without cross-venules. Lamina margins entire. Leaf development probably ‘graminaceous’.

Leaf anatomy. Stomata present; anomocytic. The mesophyll containing mucilage cells (with raphides); usually containing crystals. The crystals raphides. Foliar vessels absent.

Axial (stem, wood) anatomy. Secondary thickening absent. The axial xylem without vessels.

Root anatomy. Root xylem with vessels; vessel end-walls scalariform, or scalariform and simple.

Reproductive type, pollination. Plants hermaphrodite, or polygamomonoecious. Floral nectaries present. Nectar secretion from the gynoecium (from septal nectaries).

Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in racemes, in spikes, and in heads. The ultimate inflorescence units racemose. Inflorescences scapiflorous; terminal; usually simple or branched racemes or spikes, rarely heads; espatheate. Flowers bracteate (at least in lower parts of the inflorescence); small, or medium-sized; regular (usually), or somewhat irregular, or regular and somewhat irregular, or regular and very irregular (occasionally in heads with large, very irregular ray florets and smaller, more or less regular disk florets - see illustration of Daubenya aurea); 3 merous; cyclic; pentacyclic. Perigone tube present (usually, campanulate, urceolate or tubular), or absent (e.g. Ornithogalum).

Perianth of ‘tepals’; 6; free, or joined; 2 whorled; isomerous; petaloid; similar in the two whorls, or different in the two whorls (but usually of the same texture); white, or yellow, or red, or violet, or blue, or brown, or black. Tepal apex trichomes (TAT) present (Albuca, Bowiea, Chlorogalum, Hyacinthus, Hyacinthoides, Lachenalia, Muscari, Ornithogalum, Scilla).

Androecium 6 (usually), or 3 (e.g. in Albuca, where the outer whorl may be reduced or absent). Androecial members free of the perianth, or adnate (to the tube); free of one another; 2 whorled (usually), or 1 whorled (sometimes, in Albuca). Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens (usually), or including staminodes (e.g., sometimes in Albuca). Staminodes when present, 3; when present, external to the fertile stamens. Stamens 6 (usually), or 3 (rarely, e.g. sometimes in Albuca); diplostemonous (usually), or isomerous with the perianth; alterniperianthial (usually), or oppositiperianthial; filantherous (the filaments often broad and flat). Filaments appendiculate (sometimes appendaged by lobes on either side of the anther), or not appendiculate. Anthers dorsifixed (epipeltate); dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; tetrasporangiate. The endothecial thickenings spiral. Microsporogenesis simultaneous. Tapetum glandular. Pollen grains aperturate; 1 aperturate; sulcate; 2-celled.

Gynoecium 3 carpelled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth. The pistil 3 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; eu-syncarpous; superior. Ovary 3 locular. Gynoecium stylate, or non-stylate to stylate. Styles attenuate from the ovary, or from a depression at the top of the ovary; apical. Stylar canal present. Stigmas 1, or 3; wet type, or dry type; papillate. Placentation axile. Ovules 2–50 per locule; arillate (e.g., Lachenalia), or non-arillate; anatropous; bitegmic; crassinucellate, or pseudocrassinucellate. Embryo-sac development Polygonum-type (usually), or Allium-type, or Scilla-type. Polar nuclei fusing prior to fertilization. Antipodal cells formed, or not formed (then the three nuclei degenerating early); when formed, 3; not proliferating; ephemeral, or persistent. Synergids pear-shaped (with filiform apparatus). Endosperm formation helobial (usually), or nuclear.

Fruit non-fleshy; dehiscent; a capsule. Capsules loculicidal. Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Cotyledons 1. Embryo achlorophyllous (5/6); straight (usually), or curved. Testa perhaps always encrusted with phytomelan; black (or sometimes to chestnut in Eucomis).

Seedling. Hypocotyl internode absent. Seedling collar not conspicuous. Cotyledon hyperphyll elongated, or compact; assimilatory, or non-assimilatory; when elongated, more or less circular in t.s. Coleoptile absent. First leaf centric. Primary root ephemeral.

Physiology, phytochemistry. C3 physiology recorded directly in Ornithogalum, Scilla. Anatomy non-C4 type (Ornithogalum, Scilla). Inulin recorded (Gibbs 1974). Cyanogenic (Albuca). Alkaloids absent. Saponins/sapogenins present (often abundantly). Proanthocyanidins absent. Flavonols present, or absent; when present, kaempferol, or kaempferol and quercetin. Ellagic acid absent.

Geography, cytology. Holarctic, Paleotropical, Cape, and Antarctic. Patagonian. Widely distributed, richest in southern Africa and from the Mediterranean to southwest Asia.

Taxonomy. Subclass Monocotyledonae. Dahlgren et al. Superorder Liliiflorae; Asparagales. APG 3 core angiosperms; Superorder Lilianae; non-commelinid Monocot; Order Asparagales (as a synonym of Asparagaceae).

Species 500–700. Genera about 30; Albuca, Alrawia, Amphisiphon, Androsiphon, Barnardia, Battandiera, Bellevalia, Brimeura, Bowiea, Camassia, Chionodoxa, Chlorogalum, Daubenya, Dipcadi, Drimia, Drimiopsis, Eucomis, Fortunatia, Galtonia, Hyacynthella, Hyacynthoides (= Endymion), Hyacynthus, Lachenalia, Ledebouria, Leopoldia, Litanthus, Massonia, Muscari, Muscarimia, Neobakeria, Neopatersonia, Ornithogalum, Periboea, Paradisea (or Asphodelaceae, or Anthericaceae?), Polyxena, Pseudogaltonia, Puschkinia, Resnova, Rhadamanthus, Rhodocodon, Schizobasis, Schizocarphus, Schoenolirion, Scilla, Tenicroa, Thuranthos, Urginea, Veltheimia, Whiteheadia.

General remarks. Hyacinthaceae are conspicuously different from Asparagaceae sensu stricto (q.v.) in habit, inflorescence and fruit characters, and the data compiled for this package suggest further differences in xylem anatomy, microsporogenesis, seedling morphology, and biochemistry.


The azur’d harebell, like thy veins
(‘Cymbeline’, iv., 2 — re. Endymion non-scriptus, the vulgar names ‘harebell’ and ‘bluebell’ having been transposed in quite recent times. Thus, Shakespeare’s harebells flower in early summer, alongside primroses)

In the lone copse or shadowy dell,
Wild cluster’d knots of harebells blow
(Matthew Robinson’s undated (19th Century) ‘New Family Herbal’)

Illustrations. • Technical details: Agraphis (= Endymion), Hyacinthus, Muscari). • Bellevalia ciliata: Bot. Mag. 111 (1885). • Daubenya aurea: Bot. Reg. 1813, 1836. • Daubenya fulva: Bot. Reg. 1839, 53. • Drimia altissima: Bot. Mag. 91 (1865). • Drimia villosa: Bot. Reg. 1346, 1830. • Endymion non-scriptus: ‘Bluebells’ (photos). • Endymion non-scriptus (B. Ent.). • Eucomis bicolor: Bot. Mag. 111 (1885). • Hyacinthus hyacinthoides: as H. spicatus, Bot. Reg. 1869 (1836). • Lachenalia pallida: Bot. Reg. 1350, 1830. • Lachenalia, Muscari (Chittenden). • Massonia candida: Bot. reg. 694, 1823. • Ornithogalum montanum: Bot. Reg. XXIV, 28 (1838). • Ornithogalum umbellatum. • Oenothera anomala: Bot. Mag. 1797. • Scilla cupani: as S. cupaniana, Bot. Reg 1878 (1836). • Scilla autumnalis: Eng. Bot. 1526 (1869). • Scilla verna: Eng. Bot. 1527 (1869). • Veltheimia, Ornithogalum (Chittenden).

We advise against extracting comparative information from the descriptions. This is much more easily achieved using the DELTA data files or the interactive key, which allows access to the character list, illustrations, full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, distributions of character states within any set of taxa, geographical distribution, genera included in each family, and classifications (Dahlgren; Dahlgren, Clifford, and Yeo; Cronquist; APG). See also Guidelines for using data taken from Web publications.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onwards. The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Version: 12th September 2017.’.