Introduction

Illicium L. (Linnaeus 1759, 1050). Syn: Skimmi Kaempf. ex Adans., Fam. fl. pl., 2, 364 (1763); Cymbostemon Spach, Hist. veg. phan., 7, 444 (1839); Badianifera L. ex Kuntze, Rev. gen. pl., 1, 6 (1891).

The aromatic fruits of Illicium and Pimpinella have been used in similar medicinal ways because of their common possession of anethol-rich essences; as a consequence, they have traditionally been grouped together in pharmacopoeias and other phytotherapy texts. The two genera are phy-logenetically very distinct, however, structural and molecular studies indicate that although Illicium forms one of the earliest evolutionary branches in the angiosperms, Pimpinella occupies a relatively advanced phylogenetic position in the Euasterid II clade (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, 1998).

Illicium L. (Illiciaceae) is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs primarily growing in subtropical evergreen forests, although some species extend into north temperate deciduous forests and others grow in tropical montane forests. The primitive status of the genus is reflected in various aspects of the floral morphology, including the gradual transition between outer, green, sepal-like tepals and inner, pigmented, petal-like tepals; the large but indefinite number of free floral organs; the spiral development of floral organs (Robertson and Tucker, 1979; Erbar and Leins, 1983; Ronse Decraene and Smets, 1993); the elongated floral axis; and the developmentally conduplicate carpels (Robertson and Tucker, 1979). The fruits are highly distinctive, dry, star-shaped folliceta (Figure 2.1), which dehisce by splitting along the adaxial margin to expose the seeds (Figure 2.2).

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