Most angiosperms possess small genomes (mode 1C = 0.6 pg, median 1C = 2.9 pg). Those with truly enormous genomes (i.e. > or = 35 pg) are phylogenetically restricted to a few families and include Liliaceae - with species possessing some of the largest genomes so far reported for any plant as well as including species with much smaller genomes. To gain insights into when and where genome size expansion took place during the evolution of Liliaceae and the mode and tempo of this change, data for 78 species were superimposed onto a phylogenetic tree and analysed. Results suggest that genome size in Liliaceae followed a punctuated rather than gradual mode of evolution and that most of the diversification evolved recently rather than early in the evolution of the family. We consider that the large genome sizes of Liliaceae may have emerged passively rather than being driven primarily by selection.