Trees or shrubs, evergreen, glabrous or very rarely young twigs obscurely puberulent. Perules (vegetative bud scales) imbricate, usually caducous. Young twigs with oily or resinous cells, aromatic. Stipules absent. Leaves alternate, usually fascicled near twig apex or sometimes pseudoverticillate or subopposite, simple, petiolate; leaf blade leathery or papery, margin entire and slightly reflexed, midvein abaxially prominent or flat and usually adaxially impressed, secondary veins pinnate. Flowers axillary or supraaxillary, often appearing subterminal near twig apex, rarely cauliflorous, usually solitary, rarely 2-5-clustered, bisexual. Tepals 7-33(-55), yellow or red, rarely white, spirally arranged, distinct, imbricate, usually glandular; outer tepals small, sometimes bractlike; inner tepals large, tonguelike and membranous or ovate to suborbicular and slightly fleshy. Stamens generally numerous, spirally arranged; filaments tonguelike to subterete; anthers 2-celled, basifixed, introrse to introrse-lateral, longitudinally dehiscent. Carpels (5-)7-15(-21), in 1 whorl, distinct; ovary 1-loculed; ovule anatropous, ventral or near basal; style short, subulate. Fruit a star-shaped follicetum of single-seeded follicles, dehiscent along ventral suture. Seeds elliptic to ovate, laterally compressed, glossy; endosperm abundant, oily; embryo small.
One genus and ca. 40 species: mostly in E and SE Asia, a few in SE North America and tropical America; 27 species (18 endemic) in China.
Law Yuwu. 1996. Illicieae. In: Law Yuwu, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 30(1): 198-231, 271.