Characteristics and economic importance of Liliaceae (Lily family)

1. Diagnostic features

  • Mostly perennial herbs, small shrubs or sometimes climbers.
  • Stem usually modified into bulbs, corms or rhizomes.
  • Leaves radical or cauline, alternate or whorled.
  • Inflorescence racemose, borne on long leafless scape.
  • Flower small, bracteates bisexual, actinomorphic, hypogynous, trimerous.
  • Tepal-6 in two whorls.
  • Stamens 6 in two whorls, polyandrous, epipetalous.
  • Gynoecium tricarpellary, syncarpous, trilocular, ovary superior, ovules numerous.
  • Placentation axile.
  • Fruit usually a capsule or sometimes berry.

2. Distribution

  • Cosmopolitan distribution.
  • Mostly in warm temperate and tropical regions of the world.

3. Vegetative characters

a) Habit

  • Mostly perennial herbs, rarely shrubs and trees (Dracaena, Yucca).
  • The herbaceous members perenneate with the help of bulb (Allium), rhizome (Polygonatum) or corms (Colchicum).
  • Some species grow growing in xerophytic conditions are Aloe, Agave,Yucca, etc.

b) Root

  • Adventitious root system.
  • Sometimes thickened a tuberous to store food (Asparagus).

c) Stem

  • May be aerial or underground.
  • Aerial stems are erect or climbing (Gloriosa, Smilax), branched- branches modified  into needle-like cladodes in Asparagus.
  • Underground stem is modified into bulb (Allium), rhizome (Polygonatum), or corm (Colchicum).
  • In some cases the stem shows secondary growth and become woody in Aloe, Yucca, Dracaena.

d) Leaves

  • Radical or cauline and ramal in Dracaena.
  • Simple, exstipulate or stipulate, usually alternate, sometimes opposite (Scolypous) or whorled (Trillium).
  • Usually sessile with sheathing leaf base.
  • Venation parallel while reticulate in Smilax and Paris.
  • The leaves are thick and succulent with spiny apex and margin (Aloe), scale like in Asparagus and Ruscus.
  • The leaf tips are modified into tendrils in Gloriosa.
  • Leaves are cylindrical in Allium.
  • Only two leaves are present in Erythronium.
  • Leaves are absent in Bowiea.

Economic importance of the family liliaceae (Lily Family)

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4. Floral characters

a) Inflorescence

  • Usually racemose- simple raceme (Aloe), terminal panicle (Yucca), umbel, spadix (Rhodea).
  • Sometimes solitary terminal (Tulipa), solitary axillary (Gloriosa), condensed cyme (Allium), borne on a long leafless scape.

b) Flowers

  • Bracteate, complete, bisexual or rarely unisexual.
  • Actinomorphic, sometimes zygomorphic (Howarthia), trimerous, rarely dimerous (Mainthemum), tetramerous (Aspidistra), hypogynous.

c) Perianth

  • Tepals-6, in two whorls (3+3).
  • Usually gamopetalous or polypetalous (Lilium), rarely 8 (4+4) in Paris or 4 (2+2) in Mainthemum.
  • Perianth tubular or campanulate (Aloe), bilabiate in Howarthia, usually petaloid.
  • Sometimes sepaloid or differentiated into calyx and corolla (Trillium).
  • Aestivation valvate or imbricate.

Identifying Characteristics of Liliaceae Family - QS Study

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d) Androecium

  • Stamens usually 6 in two whorls (3+3), rarely 4 in Mainthemum, 3 in Ruscus, 8 in Paris or 9-12 in Tofieldia.
  • polyandrous or rarely monadelphous (Ruscus), usually opposite to the tepals, epitepalous.
  • Anthers 2-celled, basifixed or versatile, dehiscing by longitudinall slits or rarely by a terminal pore.
  • The filaments are very short (Ophopgon), filiform i.e thread like in Asphodeelus, anthers extrose or introse.

e) Gynoecium

  • Usually tri-carpellary, syncarpous.
  • Rarely 2 in Mainthemum, trilocular with many ovules in each locule.
  • Placentation axile, ovary superior.
  • Style simple and stigma trilobed.

f) Fruit

  • Usually a capsule (Aloe, Gloriosa) or a berry (Asparagus).

g) Seed

  • Endospermic, embryo small.

h) General floral formula


Image result for liliaceae floral formula

Economic importance

i) Food

  • Allium cepa (onion), A. sativum (garlic), young fleshy shoots of Asparagus officinalis and tuberous roots of A. racemosus are used as vegetable.

ii) Medicine

  • ‘Aloin ‘ is obtained from Aloe africana and A. barbedensis (Ghiukumari) used as laxative.
  • The bulblets of garlic are used as antiseptic.
  • Leaves of Aloe vera provide mucilaginous liquid used in piles and inflammation.
  • Raw Allium cepa is used as in constipation, diarrhoea and cholera.

iii) Flavours

  • Bulbs of Allium cepa and A. sativum and the roots of various species of Smilax are used as flavouring agents.

iv) Chemicals

  • Colchicine is obtained from Colchicum luteum, which is used to induce polyploidy.

v) Resin

  • Dracaena provides a resinous juice, the dragon’s blood (D. cinnabari) is used in varnished and dyes.
  • The leaves of Xanthorrhoea provide an acrid resin, which is used for making sealing wax, spirit, varnishes for coating metals.

vi) Fibres

  • Phormium Texan (Flax), Yucca filamentosa (ketuke), Smilax glabra give excellent fibres.
  • These fibres are used for cordage, fishing nets, mattings, twines , etc.

vii) Ornamental plants

  • Asparagus, Agapanthus africanus, Gloriosa superba, Lilium candidum, Ruscus aculeatus, etc are well known garden plants.




Characteristics and economic importance of Liliaceae (Lily family)