Perennial, dioecious herbs, when young covered with short branched hairs; aerial shoots ascending to erect, solid, terete; stolons creeping, sometimes floating, encircled by appressed, disintegrating leaf sheaths (Hanguana malayana) or plants clump-forming with the young shoots directly on the old stem. Leaves spiralled, with linear to lanceolate blades, at least lower ones long-petioled, the base forming an open, stem-clasping sheath; venation of the blade pinnate-parallel, with tesselate venules; ptyxis supervolute. Inflorescence terminal, paniculate or sometimes whorled, composed of spikelike partial inflorescences. Flowers sub-sessile, actinomorphic, trimerous, hypogynous. Tepals bractlike, pale yellowish or greenish, sometimes red-dotted, persistent, shortly connate at base, arranged in 2 whorls, the outer smaller than the inner, hood-shaped ones. Staminate flowers with rudimentary ovary which is surrounded by a 6-lobed, disklike structure; stamens 6, about as long as inner tepals or longer; filaments filiform with broader base, inserted on the perianth base; anthers with short connective, basifixed, introrse, tetrasporangiate, longitudinally dehiscent. Pistillate flowers with 6 staminodes, the inner minute; ovary ovoid-globose, 3-locular with axile placentation; style very short or stigma sessile, deeply divided into 3 short, spreading lobes; ovules solitary in each locule, almost atropous, with funicular obturator. Fruit a 1(-3)-seeded berry; seed bowl-shaped, arching over the globose placenta; seed coat sclerified; endospermcopious, starchy, embryo small.
A monogeneric family with probably five or more species from tropical SE Asia, Micronesia and Australia.
According to Maury 1888, the roots of Susum anthelminthicum Blume, the aquatic form of H. malayana, have been used as a vermifuge in veterinary medicine. However, this use has never been confirmed according to Backer 1951, who reported that raw stems and runners of this form are said to be edible.
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