Small, saprophytic and colourless or rarely autotrophic and green annuals or perennials, rarely almost completely subterranean herb, ca. 2 cm high above the ground when flowering (Tiputinia). Roots filiform, vermiform, branched and creeping, or sometimes coralloid. Rootstock a vertical cylindric ± tuberous rhizome, sometimes with a clump of small tubers at each node, or a subglobose tuber, or rarely (Tiputinia) vermiform and sympodially branched. Flowering stems mostly unbranched, terete or occasionally bisulcate, or endogenous, each terminating above ground in a single flower or bud (Tiputinia). Leaves of aerial stems alternate or spirally arranged, sessile, entire, in saprophytic species small and scalelike, hyaline, in autotrophic spp. green and small to rather large and often rosulate. Inflorescence a terminal 1-many-flowered cyme, usually a bifurcate cincinnus. Flowers perfect, sympetalous, usually actinomorphic, variously coloured, usually pedicellate; perianth basally tubular; floral tube persistent or upper part caducous or basally circumscissile, sometimes with longitudinal wings or ribs, sometimes with an ornamented annulus around the throat; tepals 6(-8) in 2 whorls, rarely 1 or 3, usually entire, rarely the inner ones connate into a mitre (Thismia), or the two whorls very compressed (Tiputinia). Stamens 6, or 3, and then opposite the inner tepals, erect or recurved, rarely incurved (Tiputinia), to pendent, usually inserted in the apical part but sometimes below the middle of the floral tube; anthers 2-thecate, 4-sporangiate, introrse, mostly on short filaments, occasionally alternating with inter-staminal lobes; thecae often separate with locules superposed and transversely dehiscent or thecae united with locules parallel and longitudinally dehiscent, rarely thecae apically divergent and longitudinally and latrosely dehiscent (Tiputinia); connective usually dilated, with various appendages, occasionally connate into an anther tube (Thismia). Gynoecium of 3 ± united carpels; ovary inferior, 3-locular with axile placentation to 1-locular with parietal placentation, or with 3 free placental columns in the centre of the ovary or 3 placentae inserted parietally in the apical portion of the ovary (Tiputinia); ovules anatropous, numerous and very small; style cylindric, usually 3-branched at apex; stigmatic branches opposite the outer tepals, or stigma capitate (Thismia) or broadly pyramidal (Tiputinia); stigmas sometimes with appendages. Nectaries apical on the ovary or in upper part of septa or absent in Tiputinia.
Most species are saprophytes and grow on decaying wood or leaves in the shade of damp primary forests. Some non-saprophytic species of Burmannia occur in wet grassland. Most species are confined to low altitudes, but some Apteria, Burmannia and Gymnosiphon are occasionally found up to 3600m in S America.
The Burmanniaceae have a wide distribution in tropical and warm-temperate regions. The genera Campylosiphon, Cymbocarpa, Dictyostega, Hexapterella, Marthella and Miersiella occur in tropical America, Haplothismia in Asia and Afrothismia and Oxygyne in Africa. Gymnosiphon, Burmannia and Thismia are pantropical; Thismia subgen. Ophiomeris is restricted to tropical America, subgen. Thismia, sect. Sarcosiphon and sect. Thismia occur in tropical Asia, and sect. Rodwaya is extra-tropical. The latter section consists of T. rodwayi in Australia and New Zealand and T. americana from Illinois, USA, a remarkable disjunction (Thorne 1972). The genus Tiputinia is known so far from a single collection in western Ama zonian Ecuador. According to Jonker 1938, all Burmannia species are confined to either Asia, Africa or America, but the species on different continents are often similar and distinguishable only with difficulty. Several species of this family are extremely rare. The species of Haplothismia, Marthella and Oxygyne, and several Thismia have been collected only once or twice. Also Afrothismia and most neotropical Thismia are known only from very few specimens.
The general description is derived from Maas van de Kramer's (1998) Flowering Plants Monocotyledons: Burmanniaceae chapter and Woodward et al's (2007) Tiputinia article. With kind permission from Springer Science+Business Media: This work is subject to copyright. All rights reserved, whether whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, broadcasting reproduction on microfilm or in any other way, and storage in data banks. Duplication of this publication or parts thereof is permitted only under the provisions of the German Copyright Law of September 9, 1965, in its current version, and permission for use must always be obtained from Springer-Verlag. Violations are liable for prosecution under German Copyright Law.All Rights Reserved
With kind permission from Springer Science+Business Media: This work is subject to copyright. All rights reserved, whether whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, broadcasting reproduction on microfilm or in any other way, and storage in data banks. Duplication of this publication or parts thereof is permitted only under the provisions of the German Copyright Law of September 9, 1965, in its current version, and permission for use must always be obtained from Springer-Verlag. Violations are liable for prosecution under German Copyright Law.All Rights Reserved