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This genus of dioecious evergreen trees and shrubs has 140 species, in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, with 17 Chinese species, 13 of which are endemic. The trees are 3 to 25 m tall, with leaves usually clustered or nearly verticillate, rarely alternate or opposite, unlobed, pinninerved, and rarely triplinerved. The flowers are star-shaped, small, and greenish. The flowers are clustered or whorled and are unisexual. Umbels are solitary or clustered or arranged in a panicle or raceme; involucral bracts are imbricated and caducous. The perianth tube is short; perianth segments usually number six in two whorls of three each, nearly equal, and rarely persistent. The male flowers have fertile stamens usually 9 in three whorls of three each; filaments of the first and second whorls are eglandular, and of the third whorl are biglandular at the base; anthers are all introrse and four-celled; cells openg by lids; the rudimentary pistil is small or lacking. The female flowers has staminodes as many as stamens of male flowers; the ovary is superior; the stigma is shield-shaped or dilated. The fruit is a berry-like drupe seated on shallow or deep, cup-shaped or discoid, perianth tube. It has a small single seed dispersed mostly by birds.
Actinodaphne species require continuously moist soil, and do not tolerate drought and frost. The laurel trees fall within the broad-leaved forests; mid-montane deciduous forests; and high-montane mixed stunted forests. Some species grow in high-altitude forests at 1,500–3,300 m (4,900–10,800 ft).
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