Illicium simonsii Maxim.

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Article from New Trees, Ross Bayton & John Grimshaw

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'Illicium simonsii' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2020-04-09.



  • I. yunnanense Franch. ex Finet & Gagnep.


Term used here primarily to indicate the seed-bearing (female) structure of a conifer (‘conifer’ = ‘cone-producer’); otherwise known as a strobilus. A number of flowering plants produce cone-like seed-bearing structures including Betulaceae and Casuarinaceae.
(syn.) (botanical) An alternative or former name for a taxon usually considered to be invalid (often given in brackets). Synonyms arise when a taxon has been described more than once (the prior name usually being the one accepted as correct) or if an article of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature has been contravened requiring the publishing of a new name. Developments in taxonomic thought may be reflected in an increasing list of synonyms as generic or specific concepts change over time.


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Article from New Trees, Ross Bayton & John Grimshaw

Recommended citation
'Illicium simonsii' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2020-04-09.

Tree 9–15 m. Branchlets brownish green, slightly ridged, grey when older. Leaves subopposite or alternate, sometimes in fascicles of three to five, leathery, 5–10 × 1.5–3.5 cm, lanceolate to elliptic, base attenuate to cuneate and decurrent along petiole, apex acute to short-acuminate; midrib impressed above, narrowly furrowed to petiole; secondary veins usually inconspicuous; petiole 0.7–2 cm, narrowly winged, adaxially furrowed. Flowers axillary at shoot tips, borne on peduncles to 0.8 cm; perianth segments 18–23(–26), thinly papery, yellow to cream, white or occasionally pink, becoming narrower towards centre; stamens 16–28; follicles 8–13, 3–4.5 mm long at flowering. Fruiting peduncle 0.5–1.6 cm; follicetum 4 cm diameter; follicles 11–20 × 6–9 × 2–4 mm, apex with a narrow 3–7 mm beak. Flowering most of the year but principally February to May, fruiting June to October (China). Yuhu et al. 2008. Distribution CHINA: western Guizhou, southwestern Sichuan, Yunnan; INDIA: northeast; MYANMAR: north. Habitat Thickets, forests, open fields, ravines, along rivers, wet places, between 1700 and 3200(–4000) m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Hudson 2004, Ward 2004; NT409.

Illicium simonsii is a notable new introduction that seems to have wide tolerances coupled with great beauty. One of the earliest collections was made by Bill McNamara and Charles Howick (H&M 1400), from Bai Baiding in Sichuan in 1990; from this it has become well established at Quarryhill, where there are several good specimens now approaching 4 m in height, and elsewhere. There have been other introductions as well (for example, SICH 1479, BWJ 8024) and it is now rather widely cultivated and freely available commercially, but the origins of different stocks are rather blurred. Its attractions are manifold. Its habit is a neat narrow cone or pyramid, with a tapering tip, at least in full sun (in shade it is rounder), with dark green foliage that has a bluish sheen to it, and its masses of cream to yellow flowers, produced mainly in spring, release a strong fragrance. It is hardy to –11 ºC (Hogan 2008) but perhaps not much below that. It should certainly be attempted in any suitable garden.

Flora of China treats I. yunnanense as a synonym of I. simonsii, which is clearly a variable species with a wide range. Plants bearing the two names grow side by side at Tregrehan and differ in a number of characters. According to Tom Hudson (pers. comm. 2007), that known as I. yunnanense is the better. It has a long flowering season and a very strong fragrance, and the new growth is red; it probably deserves a cultivar name. It is important to note that Flora of China records that all parts of I. simonsii are very poisonous.


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