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Phoebe is a genus of evergreen trees or shrubs with about 100 species, restricted to Asia. The leaves are alternate and pinninerved. Inflorescences are axillary or subterminal panicles with hermaphrodite (rarely unisexual) flowers. The flowers are 3-merous with six equal (or almost equal) tepals. Typically there are nine fertile stamens and three staminodes, though rarely one additional whorl of staminodes is produced, replacing a whorl of stamens. The stamens of the third whorl are glandular and the innermost staminodes are conspicuous and sagittate. The base of the fruit is clasped by persistent, hardened tepals. The genus is badly in need of taxonomic revision (Rohwer 1993a, Liao 1996b).
The family Lauraceae is abundant in the moister, warmer temperate forests of Asia, as well as in the true tropics, often occurring with a diversity of other broadleaved evergreens that may be quite difficult to disentangle without careful observation. Among the genera represented in these areas is Phoebe, whose species seem at first glance rather unexciting dull evergreens; a second glance only strengthens the impression (although some observers are more charitable). They certainly do not have the qualities of Nothaphoebe or Persea – perhaps simply because the leaves are less eye-catchingly glossy. Several species are now in cultivation, and it is probable that others will be collected in future. They should be given a warm, sheltered site, with ample moisture and fertile soil, and will do best planted under taller trees to imitate their understorey position in the wild.