Shrubs [or trees], deciduous [or evergreen]. Leaves alternate, not aromatic. Leaf blade pinnately veined, rarely with 3 primary veins, leathery; surfaces glabrous or variously pubescent; domatia absent. Inflorescences appearing with or before new leaves, axillary, pseudoumbels, subtended by decussate bracts. Flowers unisexual, staminate and pistillate on different plants; tepals deciduous, yellow, green, or white, equal, glabrous. Staminate flowers: stamens 9 (or 12); anthers 4-locular, 4-valved, introrse. Pistillate flowers: staminodes 9 (or 12); ovary globose. Drupe red, globose, seated in small, single-rimmed cupule.
North America, Mexico, Central America, mostly in Asia.
Species ca. 400 (1 in the flora).
Mexico has four species of Litsea, one of which extends to Costa Rica in Central America. Litsea merits revision and, as accepted here, it is probably polyphyletic. It is very similar to Lindera and best recognized by its 4-locular anthers (2-locular in Lindera).