Essential Spice Star Anise (Illicium verum) is an evergreen tree that grows in Southern China, Laos, and Vietnam. The fruits that come forth from the tiny pink flowers are harvested and dried into the woody, aromatic, and brilliantly pretty spice we call star anise. These Ceylon-colored poinsettias have eight points, each containing a delicate seed looking like a polished bead. Star anise contains the essential oil, anethole, which gives both anise and star anise their licorice flavor (the two, however, are not related in any way). The flavor is fresh, muscular, floral, and penetrating.