Small tufted annuals or cushion-forming perennials. Stems with condensed internodes, producing axillary adventitious roots but never rhizomatous. Leaves alternate, basal in annuals, imbricate along the stems in perennials, with open sheathing bases and linear to subulate blades; uppermost leaf reduced usually to a veinless sheathing cataphyll. Inflorescence terminal, usually scapose, condensed compound-cymose, capitular within a pair ofbracts or spikelike with distichous bracts, often containing shorter veinless hyaline secondary bracts. Flowers minute, unisexual, naked, anemophilous, often combined into pseudanthia; male flower a solitary stamen; filament glabrous; anther dorsifixed, versatile, bisporangiate unilocular, dehiscing by a slit; female flower a solitary carpel; ovary unilocular, stipitate; ovule 1, pendulous, atropous; style terminal, filiform, undivided, persistent, with stigmatic papillae along the adaxial side. Fruit a membranous I-seeded follicle, usually deshiscing by an abaxial split; seed albuminous; embryo minute, apical; testa membranous, formed from inner integument.
A family of three genera and about 35 species in Australia, SE Asia, and a single species in southernmost S America.
Many species are winter-growing annuals in temperate summer-dry climates, where they grow in heath, scrub and woodland communities on soils of low nutrient status. The perennial species include alpine herbfield plants such as Gaimardia setacea in Tasmania, New Zealand and the mountains ofSE Asia to New Guinea. None are aquatic.
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