common name for the Liliaceae, a plant family numbering several thousand species of as many as 300 genera, widely distributed over the earth and particularly abundant in warm temperate and tropical regions. Most species are perennial herbs characterized by bulbs (or other forms of enlarged underground stem) from which grow erect clusters of narrow, grasslike leaves or leafy stems. A few are woody and some are small trees.
Evolutionally, the lily family is probably the basic monocotyledonous stock, its ancestors having given rise to the majority of contemporary monocots, e.g., the orchids, the palms, the iris and amaryllis families, and possibly also the grasses. The relationships between plants of the modern lily family are not always clear, and some botanists subdivide the Liliaceae into several families or, if they take a broader view of the family, include some groups such as the Agave and Amaryllis families.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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