Herbs, achlorophyllous, heterotrophic. Stems absent. Leaves absent. Inflorescences racemes, arched at emergence from soil, becoming erect in fruit, axis fleshy but not fibrous, usually not persistent after seed dispersal, violet to purple, 0.1-0.4 cm diam. proximal to proximalmost flower. Pedicels nodding at anthesis, erect but not elongating in fruit; bracteoles usually present. Flowers radially symmetric, nodding; sepals 5, distinct, lanceolate-ovate; petals 5, connate, purplish to violet, without basal tubercles, (surfaces ± glabrous), corolla campanulate; intrastaminal nectary disc present; stamens 10, included; filaments uniformly slender, glabrous; anthers ovoid, without awns, without tubules, dehiscent by 2 oval slits; pistil 5-carpellate; ovary 1-locular; placentation intruded-parietal; style straight, slender; stigma capitate, angular, without subtending ring of hairs. Fruits baccate, erect, (fleshy), indehiscent, (axis fleshy). Seeds 25-200, ovoid, not winged.
Cor gamopetalous, cupulate, 5-cleft; sep 5, erect; stamens 10; filaments slender, glabrous; anthers fitting under the stigma, subglobose, unappendaged, each pollen-sac opening by a long slit on one side; ovary glabrous, with deeply intruded parietal placentas; style short; stigma capitate; fr a berry; purple or brownish-purple plants, the simple stems beset with numerous ovate, scarious, crowded and overlapping scale- lvs; raceme at first nodding, erect at anthesis. Monospecific.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.