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  • Nartheciaceae Fr. ex Bjurzon

This family is accepted.
Narthecium ossifragum


Maas, P.J.M. & Maas-van de Kamer, H. (2012). Neotropical Nartheciaceae.


Herbs, perennial , rhizomatous.  Leaves alternate , simple , basal , linear , distichous , equitant and unifacial or spirally arranged and bifacial.  Inflorescence a terminal raceme , panicle , or spike . Flowers bisexual , actinomorphic , small; tepals 6, free or connate , petaloid ; stamens 6, anthers longitudinally dehiscent , dorsifixed or basifixed, latrorse or introrse; ovary superior to inferior, 1-3-locular, style 1, stigma 1, capitate to slightly 3- lobed , placentation parietal or axile , ovules many.  Fruits loculicidal capsules.  Seeds many, fusiform to ellipsoid .

Distribution in the Neotropics

A total of three genera and 29 species distributed from the U.S.A. and East Asia to northern South America, and of which three genera and nine species occur in the Neotropics or adjacent Florida.

  • Aletris L. (c. 25 spp., pantrop.) - 5 spp. in North America to Florida.
  • Lophiola Ker-Gawler (2 spp.) - North America to Florida.
  • Nietneria Klotzsch ex Benth. (2 spp.) - N. corymbosa Klotzsch & M.R.Schomb. ex B.D.Jacks. and  N. paniculata Steyerm., in the Guayanan Shield in Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil, in savannas and elfin forests on top of table mountains, at elevations of 1,800-2,800 m.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Perennial, rhizomatous herbs.
  • Leaves basal, alternate, linear, distichous, equitant and unifacial or spirally arranged and bifacial.
  • Inflorescence a terminalraceme, panicle, or spike.
  • Flowers composed of 6, small, free or connate, petaloid tepals; stamens 6; ovarysuperior to inferior, 1-3-locular, ovules many.
  • Fruit a loculicidal capsule.
  • Useful tips for generic identification

    Key to genera of Neotropical Nartheciaceae

    1. Inflorescence covered with whitish, woolly hairs, Florida, U.S.A. — Lophiola
    1. Inflorescence glabrous or puberulous —. 2

    2. Leaves spirally arranged and bifacial, Florida, U.S.A —. Aletris
    2. Leaves distichous and unifacial, Guayanan Highlands —. Nietneria

    General Description
    • The three genera are native in the Neotropics or adjacent Florida, but not cultivated.
    Notes on delimitation
    • The family Nartheciaceae are currently placed in the order Dioscoreales by the APG III system (Stevens, 2008; APG III, 2009).
    • Takhtajan (2009) placed the Nartheciaceae in the order Petrosaviales related to Tofieldiaceae.
    • Nartheciaceae have also been placed in Haemodoraceae (Lophiola: Cronquist 1981), Liliaceae (Meerow and Cruden 2001, Cronquist 1981 (Aletris)), and Melanthiaceae (Frame 2004).
    Important literature

    A.P.G. III. 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Bot. J. Linnean Soc. 161: 105-121.

    Cronquist, A. 1981. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. Columbia University Press. New York

    Frame, D. 2004. Melanthiaceae. In: Smith, N.P., Mori, S.A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D.W., and Heald, S.V. (eds.). Flowering plants of the Neotropics, pp. 460-462. Princeton University Press, Oxford and Princeton.

    Maas, P.J.M. & Westra, L.Y.Th. 2005. Neotropical Plant Families. A concise guide of vascular plants in the Neotropics. 3rd ed., p. 63. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

    Meerow, A.W. & Cruden, R.W. 2001. Liliaceae In: Berry, P.E., Yatskievych, K. and Holst, B. (eds.). Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana vol. 6, pp 14-15. Missouri Botanical Garden Press.

    Merckx, V. 2008. Myco-heterotrophy in Dioscoreales. Systematics and Evolution. pp. 92-95. PhD University Leuven. ISBN 978-90-8649-182-7.

    Stevens, P.F. 2008. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9 onwards.

    Takhtajan, A. 1997. Flowering Plants. Second edition. Springer Verlag, Berlin.

    Tamura, M.N. 1998. Nartheciaceae. In: Kubitzki, K. et al. (eds.). The families and genera of vascular plants, vol.  3. Flowering Plants -Monocotyledons. Lilianae (except Orchidaceae), pp. 381-392. Springer Verlag, Berlin, etc.

    Nartheciaceae Fr. ex Bjurzon appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Skand. Växtfam. 64. 1846 (1846)

    Accepted by

    • APG IV (2016)

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

    Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.