Slime lilies, from Africa and Arabia, are in Family Asparagaceae > Subfamily Scilloideae although they
are still occasionally seen in Hyacinthaceae or Liliaceae.
The number of species (50 to 180) depends on how the genus is defined.
If strictly defined as plants with flowers having a well defined green or brownish strip on the outer surface
of the tepals and 3 to 5 veins near the midline, there are 60 to possibly 100 species.
Loosely defined, and including other genera, the number of species jumps to 160 or 180 depending on the genera included.
Previously all these genera were all included in the Ornithogalum genus.
These changes mean that many species have numerous synonyms.
They are perennial plants growing from bulbs.
The leaves, from a few cms long up to 1 m, are fleshy and when cut release a slimy exudate.
They are frequently linear to lanceolate but may be curled, wavy or coiled.
Hairs may be present or absent.
The leaves often die after the plant has flowered.
Each plant usually has only one leafless and hairless flowering stem (scape) per season.
The erect inflorescences are usually a slender spike with a few flowers or up to 150.
They are racemes with the flowers at the base opening first.
Flowers are on pedicels that have a leaf-like bracteole at the base.
The bracteoles are longer than the pedicels and are green with a pale margin.
The small flowers, with 6 tepals in 2 whorls can be erect to drooping.
The tepals in the two whorls may be similar or differ in shape and the extent to which they open.
In some all the tepal open widely.
In other species the hairs and glands on the tips of the inner tepals cause them to stick together.
The tepals are white, cream or greenish-yellow with a prominent green or brownish stripe down the centre
that is visible on both surfaces.
There are 6 stamens in 2 whorls either all fertile or with the outer three reduced to staminodes.
The white filaments have broad bases and taper towards the top.
The superior ovary, of 3 fused carpels has 3 locules each with numerous ovules.
The thin, white style has a stigma with papillae.
The fruit are green capsules that are markedly 3-lobed.
The black seeds are flat.