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Family Lauraceae

Description: Trees or shrubs, or in Cassytha twining hemiparasitic herbs; usually aromatic in all parts.

Leaves mostly alternate, rarely opposite or whorled; simple, reduced to scales in Cassytha, entire [rarely lobed, often leathery, dotted with oil glands and aromatic when crushed; fine venation commonly areolate; stipules absent.

Inflorescence axillary, cymose to paniculate, rarely flowers solitary. Flowers actinomorphic, bisexual or unisexual, small; usually 3-merous, rarely 2- or 4-merous; commonly perigynous with a strongly developed receptacle [or rarely epigynous]; small, often greenish or whitish. Perianth segments usually 6 or 4 in 2 whorls, or 9 in 3 whorls, or perianth absent. Stamens often 9 (3–12, rarely more), filaments frequently with a pair of glands at the base; the innermost whorl often reduced to staminodes; anthers 2- or 4-locular, dehiscing by valves from the base upwards. Ovary usually superior with a single carpel, 1-locular with a solitary ovule; style simple.

Fruit a drupe or 1-seeded berry, sometimes the receptacle enlarging and enveloping the fruit but not fused to it.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 32 genera, 2500 species, widespread in tropical & subtropical regions, chiefly Seastern Asia & South America. Australia: 8 genera, c. 130 species, all States, mostly NE Qld to coastal N.S.W.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Lauraceae, Order: Laurales)

Many species contain aromatic oils of economic importance, for example, Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees, yields oil of sassafras, and Cinnamomum camphora (L.) T.Nees & Eberm., camphor. The dried bark of C. zeylanicum Blume is the source of the spice cinnamon. The avocado, Persea americana Mill., is widely cultivated for its edible fruit. Some of the larger tree species in a number of genera are commercially important for timber.

Text by G. J. Harden
Taxon concept:

 Key to the genera 
1Trees or shrubs with well-developed leaves2
Twining hemiparasitic herbs with leaves reduced to scalesCassytha
2Inflorescence surrounded by large bracts when young, sometimes falling by anthesis; perianth segments 0, 4, or 63
Inflorescence not surrounded by bracts; perianth segments 6
                       Back to 1
3Leaves not 3-veined from near base; flowers 3-merous, perianth segments 6 or 0; fruit surrounded by a cupular receptacleLitsea
Leaves 3-veined, the basal pair of secondary veins extending to at least midway up the lamina; flowers 2-merous, perianth segments 4; fruit seated on a shallow disc-like receptacle
                       Back to 2
4Ovary completely surrounded by the receptacle, the receptacle in the fruiting stage enlarging and completely enclosing the fruit and giving the appearance of an inferior ovaryCryptocarya
Ovary and fruit seated on, and usually partly surrounded by the receptacle, but not completely enclosed by it
                       Back to 2
5Fertile stamens usually 3, or rarely 4–6, staminodes present or absent; fine venation on leaves mostly areolateEndiandra
Fertile stamens 6 or 9, usually with additional staminodes; fine venation on leaves not prominently areolate
                       Back to 4
6Perianth persistent on fruit; anthers 4-locular; leaves opposite or subopposite, or if alternate then 3-veined and domatia presentCinnamomum
Perianth not persistent on fruit; anthers 2- or 4-locular; leaves alternate, not 3-veined, domatia absent
                       Back to 5
7Anthers 2-locular; most leaves less than 12 cm long, petiole less than 15 mm long; fruit less than 2 cm longBeilschmiedia
Anthers 4-locular; most leaves more than 12 cm long, petiole more than 20 mm long; fruit more than 4 cm long
                       Back to 6

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