Novon 8: 332. 1998.
Rhizomes 1.5–2 × 0.5–1 cm; bulbs 1–1.6 cm. Stems 1/2–2/3 floriferous, 0.7–1.5(–2) m. Leaf blades elliptic to oblanceolate, 20–50 × 3–10 cm, apex acute. Inflorescences 3–6 dm; terminal raceme 1–4 dm; secondary racemes spreading to ascending, 0.6–1.2(–2.2) dm; tertiary racemes rare; bracts lanceolate to subulate, brownish green, 2–6(–9) mm, floccose abaxially, proximally, and marginally. Tepals purplish maroon to chocolate brown adaxially, green abaxially, aging to dark green, obovate-oblanceolate, 5–10 × 1.8–4 mm, base gradually attenuate, not clawed, margins entire, apex obtuse; glands dark purple to nearly black, obcuneate, not nectariferous; stamens 4.5–6.5 mm; filaments adnate to tepal bases, 0.3 mm from ovary base, dilated basally, 1/2 or more as wide as tepals at insertion point; anthers 0.7 mm; ovary conic-ovoid, finely tomentose, becoming glabrate; styles 1.6–4 mm; pedicel spreading to ascending, 2–11 mm. Capsules elliptic-oblong, 18–25 × 10–15 mm, sparsely pubescent. Seeds 8–13 × 4–6 mm (including wings). 2n = 16.
Phenology: Flowering summer.
Habitat: Rich, moist, deciduous forests
Elevation: 10–800 m
Ark., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Mo., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Tenn.
The purplish maroon to chocolate-brown tepals and the tomentose young ovaries are distinguishing characteristics of Melanthium woodii. In parts of Illinois and the Ozark regions of Missouri and Arkansas, this species sometimes is locally common, but often in the leafy sterile condition. Flowering is sporadic and appears to be promoted by fire (J. E. Ebinger 1993).