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A perennial, rarely annual, glabrous herb, stems tufted, rootstock sympodial, producing one leafy shoot each year. Leaves variable, radical or few near the base, linear, flat or terete, or reduced to sheaths, with or without transverse septa. Inflorescence terminal or subterminal on the scape-like stems, with flowers arranged in cymes of various types, commonly monochasial, usually with 1-2 bracteoles. Flowers small, usually clustered,  mostly sessile. Perianth of 6 segments, glumaceous, equal, or the 3 of inner whorl smaller. Stamens 3-6, free or somewhat connate to the inner perianth, filaments linear, anthers erect, linear or oblong. Ovary 3-locular, sessile, style short, linear with 3 brushlike stigmas. Fruit a capsule, loculicidal, 3-valved. Seeds ovoid or oblong, minute, shallowly ribbed.