969 Illicium parviflorumCommon Names: yellow anise, yellow anisetree, star anise Family: Illiciaceae (illicium Family)
The yellow anisetree is an attractive broadleaf evergreen. It is a large shrub or small tree that will assume a loose cone shape if left untrimmed. Gradually growing to a height of over 20 ft (6 m) and, if permitted to sprawl, will reach widths of 10-15 ft (3-4.5 m). The elliptical leaves are 3.5-5 in (9-13 cm) long and 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide and release a pleasantly aromatic fragrance when crushed. They are glossy on top and dull and lighter on the bottom and are held alternately on the stems. The greenish-yellow flowers of the yellow anisetree are unimpressive and easy to miss. These are small, about 0.5-0.75 in (1-2 cm) in diameter, and appear in spring. They are followed by a star-shaped seed capsule that is about an 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter.
Illicium parviflorum is native to Central Florida where it grows along streams and other moist areas.
CultureThis shrub prefers sandy, acidic soils but is adaptable. Light: Full shade to sun. Plants grown in shade have rich, dark green leaves while those in sun are yellowish green. Moisture: yellow anisetree will survive periods of drought but prefers adequate moisture. Requires more water to look good when grown in full sun. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Propagation: Propagate by seeds and cuttings. This shrub forms layers where lower branches touch the soil forming roots - these can be cut and dug for an easy way to obtain new plants.
The yellow anisetree is the perfect low maintenance shrub. It has a naturally pleasing conical form that doesn't require much pruning and it is seldom bothered by insects or disease. It is perfect for mixed shrub borders and woodland areas. Unsheared, this shrub makes a handsome informal screen but you can also clip it into formal hedges (best to use a hand pruner so you don't slice up the rather large leaves). Yellow anisetree is perfect for shady areas where it maintains a rich dark green color. It makes a great background shrub against which azaleas are presented beautifully. Remove the lower limbs to transform yellow anisetree into a very attractive multi-stemmed small tree - it is neat and clean and is perfect near the patio or in small yards where larger trees would overwhelm.
Although not a spectacularly showy shrub, the yellow anisetree is a very attractive and useful plant that is easy to grow, inexpensive and readily available from discount garden centers in the areas in which it grows.
The foliage and stems have a delightful odor that reminds me of root beer - with hints of licorice. The genus name, Illicium, is Latin for allurement no doubt referring to the enticing fragrances produced by most members of the genus (the exception is I. floridanum which I think smells like a fish fresh out of a pond). The other species have aromas and flavors similar to that of aniseed. Indeed, one member of the genus, I. verum is the source of a spice called star anise that is traditionally used in many Chinese dishes and to flavor bakery goods, liqueurs and other foods. While the yellow anisetree also has a star-shaped seed capsule, and is sometimes also called star anise, it is not edible like I. verum . Both species can be used in potpourri however, if kept out of reach of young children.
In older publications you may see the Illicium genus placed in the Magnoliaceae family. This is no longer correct as they are now placed in their own family Illiciaceae. This shrub is listed as endangered by the state of Florida which means that it is "in imminent danger of extinction within the state, the survival of which is unlikely if the causes of a decline in the number of plants continue..."
This plant is toxic! Do not ingest. It is not a substitute for the culinary spice and flavorings obtained from Illicium verum.
Steve Christman 2/27/03, 9/9/03