Also known as Florida anise tree and poison bay, this broadleaf evergreen shrub is a member of the starvine family, Schisandraceae, consisting of 3 genera and 92 species. It is native to the southeastern United States and northern Mexico where it grows in the wet soils of wooded ravines, and in marshy and riparian areas. Growing 6-10′ tall, the shrub bears terminal whorls of glossy, olive-green leaves that are elliptic to lanceolate, 2-6” long, and give off an anise-like or gin and tonic aroma when crushed. In spring, nodding,  maroon-purple flowers appear for 4-6 week bloom time. The flowers are up 1.5- 2″ across, have 20-30 strap-shaped petals, and give off a scent that is variously described as fishy, heady port, or foetid. The fruits that follow are dry one-seeded follicles arranged in star-shaped clusters. Purple anise is a good choice for a hedge, border, or foundation planting as well as for rain, water, woodland, shade, and native plant gardens. Fruits, leaves, and seeds are mildly toxic to humans and livestock. The genus name, Illicium, comes from the Latin word illicere, meaning to allure, referring to the appealing fragrance of many species. The specific epithet, floridanum, is a latinized form of Florida and refers to the state where the plant is native.

Type: Flowering broadleaf evergreen shrub

Outstanding Feature: Foliage and flowers

Form: Rounded

Growth Rate: Rapid

Bloom: Nodding maroon-purple flowers in spring

Size: 6-10′ H x 4-8′ W

Light: Part to full shade; tolerates full sun if moisture requirements met.

Soil: Fertile, consistently moist, well-drained; tolerates wet soils

Hardiness: Zones 7-10

Care: Prune when young to shape

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed, hardwood cuttings

Outstanding Selections:

‘Grey Ghost'( pale pink flowers, pewter-colored leaves with fine white margins)

‘Halley’s Comet’ (dark red flowers)

‘Pink Frost’ (white variegated leaves that turn pink in the cold; compact)

‘Swamp Hobbit’ (dwarf)

‘Thayer’ (soft pink flowers, variegated leaves with white margins)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

By Karen