The plants have long narrow leaves springing from the bulb and a central scape bearing one or more generally large, white or yellow, drooping or inclined flowers, which are enveloped before opening in a membranous spathe.
The small flowers are densely crowded on thick fleshy spikes, which are associated with, and often more or less enveloped by, a large leaf (bract), the so-called spathe, which, as in cuckoo-pint, where it is green in colour, Richardia, where it is white, creamy or yellow, Anthurium, where it is a brilliant scarlet, is often the most striking feature of the plant.
These are followed by the inflorescence, a fleshy spadix bearing in the lower part numerous closely crowded simple unisexual flowers and continued above into a purplish or yellowish appendage; the spadix is enveloped by a leafy spathe, constricted in the lower part to form a chamber, in which are the flowers.
The insects visit the plant in large numbers, attracted by the foetid smell, and act as carriers of the pollen from one spathe to another.
As the fruit ripens the spathe withers, and the brilliant red berries are exposed.