Dioecious herbs or shrubs with thick, woody rhizomes with monocotyledonous secondary thickening and fibrous roots. Stem leafy, leaves basal or cauline. Leaves perennial, sessile, sheathing, sheathes sometimes auricular, linear, triquetrous or terete, margins smooth, prickly or scarious. Male and female inflorescences similar or different; perigone short, pedicels articulated at the pedicel apex or pedicels absent; flowers single or clustered at each node, subtended by a single or several bracts; tepals free or united, petaloid or chartaceous, green, white, yellow or purple. Anthers oblong, outer whorl hypogynous or inserted on outer tepals, inner whorl inserted on inner tepals. Ovary small, ovoid; ovules single per locule. Style short, thick; stigma capitate or 3-lobed. Capsule globular, ovoid, or trigonous, seeds smooth, brown, reddish or yellow.