Trees or shrubs, evergreen or deciduous, usually with perfect flowers, rarely dioecious, monoecious, or andro-dioecious, usually with trichomes or rarely glabrous. Vegetative buds enclosed by hooded stipules. Stipules 2, connate and adnate to or free from petiole, splitting and caducous but with a remaining annular scar on twig or if adnate to petiole with scar on petiole. Leaves simple, spirally arranged, rarely distichous, sometimes fascicled on twig apex and becoming pseudoverticillate, petiolate; leaf blade pinnately veined, margin entire or rarely lobed. Flowers terminal or terminal on axillary brachyblasts, solitary, large, insect pollinated. Spathaceous bracts 1 to several, basal to tepals. Tepals 6-9(-45), in 2 to many whorls, 3(-6) per whorl, usually fleshy, sometimes outer ones (perules) nearly leathery or reduced and sepal-like. Carpels and stamens many, distinct, spirally arranged on an elongated torus. Androecium usually at basal part of torus; filaments thick and short, sometimes elongated; connective usually exserted and forming a long or short tip; anthers linear, with 2 thecae, introrsely, laterally, or rarely extrorsely longitudinally dehiscing. Gynoecium at apical part of torus, sessile or with a gynophore; carpels folded, usually distinct, sometimes connate at base or rarely completely connate; ovules 2-14 per carpel, in 2 series on ventral sutures. Fruit apocarpous or sometimes syncarpous; mature carpels usually dehiscing along dorsal and/or ventral sutures, rarely connate and irregularly dehiscing or (in Liriodendron) indehiscent, samaroid, and adnate to seed endotesta. Seeds 1-12 per fruiting carpel, pendulous on a filiform elastic funiculus, exserted from mature carpels; testa fleshy, red; endotesta bony; embryo minute; endosperm copious, oily.
Seventeen or two genera and ca. 300 species: mainly in SE Asia and Central America, E and S North America, including Mexico and Antilles, and N South America; 13 (one introduced) or two genera and 112 or 108 species including two to eight hybrid species (66 or 62 endemic, four introduced) in China.
Several species in the Magnolioideae are grown for their dried flower buds, known as xinyi (辛夷), which are used medicinally. In addition, HOUPOEA officinalis (Magnolia officinalis) is extensively grown for its medicinal bark. All species in the family are ornamental, and many are grown in public and private gardens throughout much of China and in other parts of the world.Several species in the Magnolioideae are grown for their dried flower buds, known as xinyi (辛夷), which are used medicinally. In addition, HOUPOEA officinalis (Magnolia officinalis) is extensively grown for its medicinal bark. All species in the family are ornamental, and many are grown in public and private gardens throughout much of China and in other parts of the world.