Clintonia species are herbaceous perennials growing from rhizomatous underground stems with thin, fibrous roots. They grow from 1.5 to 8 dm tall. They have 2 to 6 basal leaves arising from the rhizome crown, the basal leaves are sessile and sheathing, and the cauline leaves have a stalk, the blade of the leaves have a prominent central vein and entire margins, and the bottom ends are obovate to oblanceolate in shape. The leaf apex is acute to abruptly short-acuminate, often mucronate (ending abruptly in a short sharp point). The inflorescences are terminal, and the flowers are arranged into short racemes or umbel-like clusters, with 1 to 45 flowers. The flowers have 6 tepals with nectaries present. The stamens are inserted at the base of the perianth, and the anthers are oblong-obovate to oblong-linear shaped. The rounded to cylinder shaped ovary is superior with two chambers (sometime three). Each chamber produces 2 to 10 ovules. The smooth fruits are berry-like, round to egg-shaped, metallic blue to black in color. Four to thirty seeds are produced in each fruit and the seeds are shiny brown, round and the ends are angled with 2 or 3 faces.
Clintonia species are cultivated as garden subjects in shade gardens, grown for the glossy foliage, small lily-like flowers, and blue fruits, and their ability to live in heavy shade. They grow best in cool, organic-rich, acid soils that retain moisture and when grown well form dense slowly spreading clumps.