Distribution of Liliaceae:
It is commonly called “Lily family”. It includes 250 genera and 4000 species, which are worldwide in distribution. In India it is represented by 169 species.
Economic Importance of Liliaceae:
- Food: Allium cepa (Onion), Allium sativum (Garlic) and Asparagus are edible and used as food.
- Medicinal: Smilax, Aloe, Gloriosa, Veratrum, Colchicum, Scilla and Urginea yield useful drugs. Rat poison is obtained from Urginea and the bulbs of Scilla. Aloe vera yields “Aloin”. The roots of Asparagus (H. Satavaer) yields a tonic. From Colchicum, colchicine is obtained.
- Fibres: Yucca, Phormium tenax yield fibres of commerce.
- Resin: Dracaena and Xanthorrhoea yield resin. From the acrid resin of Xanthorrhoea sealing wax is prepared.
- Ornamentals: The common cultivated garden plants are Tulipa, Lilium, Gloriosa, Aloe, Ruscus, Dracaena, Asparagus, Yucca, Hemerocallis etc.
Affinities of Liliaceae:
The family has close affinity with Amaryllidaceae from which it can be distinguished by the presence of superior ovary, and absence of corona.
It is also close to Juncaceae as in both the seeds have albumen but differs from Juncaceae in petaloid perianth.
The family, on account of marked variabilities in cytological, embryological and anatomical structures, appears to be polyphyletic in origin. Its origin from Helobieae or its ancestor may be assumed from floral structures and helobial endosperm formation in some of the genera of Liliaceae as Petrosavia, Protolirion. The helobian origin is further supported by the flower construction of Helonias which is similar to the members of Juncaceae. Liliaceae is regarded as a typical monocot family and represents the basic monocot stock from which many families have arisen.
Hutchinson has excluded many genera which are included by many botanists in the family Liliaceae. He has included Allium, Agapanthus in the family Amaryllidaceae of his order Amaryllidales; Yucca, Dracaena, Sanseuiera, Phormium in the family Agavaceae of his order Agavales; Xanthorrhoea in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae of his order Agavales. He has also included Smilax in the family Smilacaceae and Ruscus in Ruscaceae in his order Liliales.