Florida anise (Illicium floridanum) is one of the South's most dependable broad-leaved evergreen shrubs. Glossy but leathery dark green leaves 2 to 6 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide adorn the tree year-round. A sniff of the leaves reveals a pleasant anise scent that tempts the passerby to tear a leaf in order to enjoy the spicy aroma.
In spring, maroon, 2-inch diameter flowers with many straplike petals bloom. While they are attractive enough for viewing, getting too close may reveal a somewhat fishy odor. Do not cut the offending blossoms, though, for the flowers give way to star-shaped, papery follicles that hold the BB-like seeds. When mature, the seeds burst and send the seeds in all directions. These seeds germinate readily and provide an easy means of propagation. New plants can also be obtained from mature or hardwood cuttings that root easily.
Expect Florida anise to grow from 10 to 15 feet tall and about 6 to 10 feet wide. Hardy from USDA Zones 7-10, it is an excellent choice gardens in the Deep South. Specimens can be found in the wild in the Florida panhandle and across Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to southeastern Louisiana. Common names include Florida anise, purple anise, stinkbush, and star anise.