Erect, perennial, terrestrial herbs. Roots fibrous. Subterranean stem a globose to ellipsoid corm, 14cm in diameter, in some genera with a membranous to fibrous tunic consisting of persistent sheathing leaves or fibrovascular bundles. Leaves basal to subbasal, or cauline in Walleria, spiral; base sheathing or non-sheathing, blades narrowly linear to lanceolate-ovate, or more or less petiolate in Cyanastrum and Kabuyea; entire, glabrous, flat, or marginally undulate; venation parallel with a major central vein. Flowers terminal and either solitary (or in small groups) and a panicle or (in Walleria) solitary in the axils of cauline leaves. Bracts and bracteoles (prophylls) often present on pedicel. Flowers 1-3 cm long, pedicellate, bisexual, trimerous. Perianth variable in color, zygomorphic or actinomorphic, homochlamydeous, basally syntepalous; perianth lobes 6, imbricate in 2 whorls, the outer median tepal positioned anteriorly; minute corona appendages present between adjacent stamens in some taxa. Androecium arising at mouth of perianth tube, opposite the tepals and either actinomorphic or zygomorphic, composed of either 6 fertile stamens or combinations of fertile stamens and staminodes; fertile stamens similar in size and shape or dimorphic, oriented equally in a circle or oriented in anterior and posterior groups. Fertile anthers 2-locular, poricidally dehiscent (or almost so). Gynoecium syncarpous; ovary semiinferior to almost superior; carpels and locules 3; placentation axile; ovules 2 to numerous per carpel. Fruit a loculicidal capsule. Seeds ranging from yellow to brown to black, and of varied size and shape.
Habitats vary only slightly. Conanthera grows in open hills and grasslands. Tecophilaea is found in rocky grasslands or river borders, and Zephyra in loose rocky soil of talus slopes. Odontostomum is reported in clay soil of grassy fields or forest openings. Cyanella is located in sandy or rocky soil of riverine slopes or grasslands. Walleria grows in generally sandy soil of open hill slopes or dense woodlands, and Cyanastrum and Kabuyea in woodland or stream banks.
Apart from Odontostomum, which is endemic to northcentral California, USA, Teophilaeaceae occur either in Chile (Conanthera, Tecophilaea, and Zephyra) or Africa. Cyanella is restricted to South Africa; Cyanastrum and Kabuyea occur in tropical Africa, and Walleria is more widespread, with distributions in southern and tropical Africa and Madagascar.
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