Wild anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a flowering plant in the (Apiaceae) carrot family. Its flavoring is similar to fennel, liquorice and tarragon. It is an annual herb, but can also be bi-annual and perennial. You’ll find wild anise in Europe, North America, Russia and Southwest Asia, but is native to Africa, western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean.
Wild anise has been cultivated for more than four thousand years in many places to which it is not native, like Indiana and Virginia, as well as other areas of North America. It was used by Romans, Greeks and the Egyptians for centuries.
The plant grows about eighteen inches to two feet tall with leaves at the base of the plant that are long and lobe-like. The leaves on the upper part of the stems are feathery and have many leaves. The root is similar to a carrot shape. The flowers are white and it bears fruit that is oblong, dry and referred to as “anise seeds”.
It has to have up to 120 frost-free days every year in which to produce its seeds. It likes cooler areas and still it grows well in tropical climates. Anise grows very well in sun and in fertile, well-drained soil.
The entire plant has a sweet and fragrant odor, and the seeds have a sweet taste when they are chewed. It is propagated by its seeds, which are used for flavoring dishes, drinks, liqueurs and many candies. The seeds are medicinal and have been used traditionally for centuries.
Butterflies and moths love this plant, as do lime-speck pugs and wormwood pugs. Predatory wasps and bees love it, and it repels aphids and other pests. It is sometimes used in ointments for bug bites and stings. If you raise bees, feeding them anise oil, from the seeds, will help to keep them happy and productive.
It can improve the health and vitality of many plants that grow near it, and grows well with coriander.
Sweet Anise (Osmorhiza longistylis) can be found growing in Indiana and has white flower clusters above its fern-like feathery leaves. It has a distinctive odor whenever the leaves are crushed. It contains hairs at the stem nodes with dark and purple stems and it grows up to three inches and blooms in late May.
The Star Anise tree (Illicium anisatum) grows wild in China, Japan, and Korea. It is cultivated in the Southeastern states of the U.S.
Its stems are aromatic with white bark and the greenish-yellow flowers are narrow with spreading petals. The leaves alternate and are a bit pointed with short petioles. It has fruit that is a bit dry and woody with a gray-brown cluster of follicles in a star shape. This variety can grow between twenty and thirty-five feet in height.