Illicium Floridanum

Illicium Floridanum in bloom

Illicium Floridanum in bloom

In my yard is a bush named Illicium Floridanum, which like most of the plants has a story to go with it.

When my father was getting ready to sell his house, he cleaned up his yard, which included replacing the overgrown vegetable garden with lawn. In the garden area was several plants which were “temporarily” placed so long that a vine had covered and almost smothered two bushes, which were Illicium Floridanum. The vine and the bushes had to go. The vine was beyond help and too aggressive for our yard but I was able to rescue the bushes from going to the county landfill.

After untangling the bushes from the vines, the shape of the bushes could be seen. They were comical in appearance with long branches ending it tufts of leaves. They looked like they belonged in a Dr. Seuss book. I dug them up with good size dirt ball and took them home.

Our yard was very bare of understory vegetation when we moved in, so there were plenty of places to choose to place them.  Since the bushes were growing in full sun before being moved, I found a spot to “temporarily” place them until I learned the lay of the land. We had not lived here long enough for me to know how density the shade and the soil was like in different areas and what the light was like at different times of the year.

After several years, the bushes had filled out and the small tree planted between them and the morning sun was starting to shade them. It was time to figure out where to best locate them in the yard. I called the company from which my father purchased the bushes to ask what the plants’ requirements for soil and light were so I could properly place the bushes. I was told they no longer sell them as they were not doing well outside of their native range of the south east and if they are doing well where they are, just leave them there. So, their second temporary location became permanent.

Or, so I thought. Many years later, one of the two bushes fell apart. I think it might have been a heavy snow that damaged it. After removing most of the bush, I discovered that the base still had some life in it, which I left, and there were several volunteer plants that had been hiding under the bush. The volunteers have been moved to different parts of the yard in different degrees of shade and soil moisture levels. I hope they all do well. Although I was sad that one bush was damaged, I was glad that it provided more bushes for the yard.

Common names for Illicium Floridanum include: Florida anise, purple anise, stink-bush, and star-anise. I find the slightly spicy anise-like aroma of the leaves to be pleasant. Although the plant is related to Star Anise, it is toxic and not meant for culinary use. The leaves are similar in size and shape to a Rhododendron, but have pointed tips. They are evergreen and thus provide foliage interest during the winter months and are covered in charming dark red flowers in spring.

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