Earlier this week I planted Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine' in the woodland garden. It is a relatively rare form of anise with chartreuse gold foliage, and the leave color intensifies in the fall to provide the ultimate glow in the garden.
Anise is a dependable broadleaf evergreen shrub. Upright to pyramidal in shape, 'Florida Sunshine' should grow 6 to 8 feet tall by 4 to 6 feet wide. Its golden leaves distinguish it from other types of anise. The foliage is gorgeous throughout the year, but it especially shines on dreary winter days. 'Florida Sunshine' is also characterized by red stems that contrast with the yellow foliage. The glossy, fragrant leaves smell of licorice when crushed. I can smell my 'Florida Sunshine' at least ten feet away without crushing the leaves. The fragrance is fabulous!
The plant is tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions, but it will grow best in moist soils. It likes filtered sun to shade. I was impressed when I saw it at the nursery. Unprotected through the winter, it withstood subfreezing temperatures with no problems and was already putting out new leaves. In fact, it is hardy in zones 6-9, tolerating temperatures down to -5 degrees fahrenheit.
Illicium parviflorum is native to the Deep South, most often found in moist areas of the Florida panhandle and southern Georgia. The species can grow into a small tree up to 20 feet tall. Suckers sometimes appear around the base of mature plants, which may be dug for new plants, and it is also easily rooted from cuttings. It has small yellow flowers that may go unnoticed.
Florida anise, Illicium floridanum, is also a native and is cousin to the gold-leaf anise. This species will grow in hardiness zones 7-10 and likes well drained, moist acid soil. It has leathery dark green leaves and will grow to about 10 to 15 feet tall by 6 to 10 feet wide. In spring it produces maroon, 2 inch flowers with strap-like petals. There are smaller cultivars, and there are some cultivars with white flowers. 'Shady lady' is a cultivar with variegated foliage and pink flowers. All anise shrubs have wonderfully fragrant leaves.
Both Illicium parvifolum and I. floridanum are toxic if ingested, despite the delightful aroma of their leaves. Illicium verum, or star-anise, is a non-native from China and Vietnam that is used as a culinary spice.
Whichever one is chosen, an anise shrub is a great addition to the garden. I am very excited about my 'Florida Sunshine'. It truly brings a gleam of sunlight to my shady woodland.