A small family with 230 species in the world mostly distributed in tropical Asia and tropical America but extending to north temperate zone. In India there are 8 genera and 27 species mainly in north temperate zone in the Himalayas.
Vegetative characters :
The Magnoliaceae are evergreen or deciduous trees often aromatic trees or shrubs but sometimes woody climbers.
The leaves are alternate, simple, entire and stipulate. The leaves are sometimes clustered at upper nodes as in Illicium. They are often pellucid dotted. The stipules are large and deciduous, enclosing next young bud.
Inflorescence and flowers:
The flowers are usually solitary, terminal or axillary; sometimes they are crowded near the tips of the branches. They are subtended by a spathaceous deciduous bract. The flowers are showy and large, actinomorphic and usually hermaphrodite and hypogynous with an elongated floral axis on which floral parts arranged spirally.
The perianth is differentiated or undifferentiated into calyx and corolla.
The numerous free stamens are arranged on the conical receptacle. The anthers are adnate or basifixed, dithecous introrse or sometimes extrorse and opening longitudinally.
The numerous free carpels are arranged spirally on the floral axis above the stamens.
The ovary of each carpel is superior, unilocular with one to several anatropous or amphitropous ovules on ventral suture. The style is usually short and stigmatose on the inner surface.
Fruits and seeds :
The individual flower is a follicle(Magnolia) or Samara (Liriodendron) or berry (Schizandra)
Flowers are pollinated by bees and beetles.Dispersal of seeds takes place by birds,squirrels,rats or monkeys which carry off fruits.