Trees, shrubs, or climbers, wood and leaves often aromatic; indument of simple or less often (Uvaria, Annona) stellate hairs. Leaves alternate, normally distichous. Stipules absent. Petiole usually short; leaf blade simple, venation pinnate, margin entire. Inflorescences terminal, axillary, leaf-opposed, or extra-axillary [rarely on often underground suckerlike shoots]. Flowers usually bisexual, less often unisexual, solitary, in fascicles, glomerules, panicles, or cymes, sometimes on older wood, usually bracteate and/or bracteolate. Sepals hypogynous, [2 or]3, imbricate or valvate, persistent or deciduous, rarely enlarging and enclosing fruit, free or basally connate. Petals hypogynous, 3-6(-12), most often in 2 whorls of 3 or in 1 whorl of 3 or 4[or 6], imbricate or valvate, sometimes outer whorl valvate and inner slightly imbricate. Stamens hypogynous, usually many, rarely few, spirally imbricate, in several series; filaments very short and thick; anther locules 2, contiguous or separate, rarely transversely locular, adnate to connective, extrorse or lateral, very rarely introrse, opening by a longitudinal slit; connectives often apically enlarged, usually ± truncate, often overtopping anther locules, rarely elongated or not produced. Carpels few to many, rarely solitary, free or less often connate into a 1-locular ovary with parietal placentas; ovules 1 or 2 inserted at base of carpel or 1 to several in 1 or 2 ranks along ventral suture, anatropous; styles short, thick, free or rarely connate; stigmas capitate to oblong, sometimes sulcate or 2-lobed. Fruit usually apocarpous with 1 to many free monocarps, these sometimes moniliform (constricted between seeds when more than 1-seeded), often fleshy, indehiscent, rarely dehiscent (Anaxagorea, Xylopia), and often with base extended into stipe, rarely on slender carpophore (Disepalum), less often syncarpous with carpels completely connate and seeds irregularly arranged and sometimes embedded in fleshy pulp. Seeds 1 to many per monocarp or many per syncarp, often arillate; endosperm copious, ruminate; embryo minute, near hilum.
About 129 genera and over 2,300 species: tropics and subtropics, especially in Old World; 24 genera (one endemic, three introduced) and 120 species (41 endemic, 11 introduced) in China.
The flowers often open before the petals have fully expanded making it easy to underestimate floral dimensions.
One of the major studies of the Annonaceae of tropical Asia was by Suzanne Jovet-Ast (1914-2006), who published an account of the Indochinese species under her maiden name, Ast (Fl. Indo-Chine, Suppl. 1: 62-121. 1938). Unfortunately, she failed to provide Latin descriptions for her many new taxa, none of the names of which was therefore validly published. Her new combinations were validly published, however, and she did subsequently validate a few species of Goniothalamus under her maiden name; but she did not validate most of her new species until after she married and took up the name "Jovet-Ast." These later names form the major part of all her publications, so we have chosen to cite her as "Jovet-Ast ["Ast"]" for those taxa validated under her maiden name.
Tsiang Ying & Li Ping-t’ao. 1979. Annonaceae. In: Tsiang Ying & Li Ping-t’ao, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 30(2): 10-175.
"Petals generally 6, in two series, valvate or slightly imbricate, rarely in two series of 2, or the inner series absent"
"Flowers terminal, leaf-opposed or axillary, solitary or crowded, hermaphrodite or rarely unisexual, mostly trimerous"
"Sepals 3, rarely 2, separate or united into a 3-lobed calyx, valvate or rarely imbricate, persistent or deciduous"
"Carpels numerous or rarely few or solitary, free or very rarely united into a 1-celled ovary with parietal placentas; ovules 1 or more"
"Stamens generally numerous, hypogynous; anther-cells adnate, with the connective often truncate"