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Mostly short-stemmed epiphytes, sometimes terrestrial. Leaves mostly basal and rosette-forming, rarely cauline, spirally alternate, often spiny-serrate and troughlike, sometimes coarsely grasslike or linear to filiform, often brightly coloured bracts. Flowers bisexual or rarely unisexual. Perianth of 2 series, outer series of 3 calyxlike, inner series of 3 corollalike, free or connate. Stamens 6, free or adnate to corolla. Pistil 1, ovary superior to inferior, 3-locular. Fruit a berry or capsule, often  enveloped by the persistent perianth, sometimes syncarpous. Seeds  with copious mealy endosperm and small embryo.