Florida Sunshine Anise ShrubIllicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'
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Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Florida Sunshine Anise is a bushy shrub growing 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, potentially reaching 10 feet. The leaves in spring and summer are chartreuse-green, turning bright yellow in fall and staying creamy-yellow all through the winter months. Unlike other yellow shrubs, this one stays yellow even when grown in shade, making it an ideal and easy way to brighten shady spots in your garden. In spring small yellow flowers will be seen along the stems, and these become star-shaped seed pods. Use this native shrub anywhere you need a touch of sunlight, in everything from formal to wild gardens.
Partial shade is the ideal location for the Florida Sunshine Anise, especially the dappled shade beneath large trees. It grows in any soil that isn’t dry, and even tolerates periods of flooding. It isn’t eaten by deer and there are no significant pests or diseases found on it. It has a natural bushy habit, but it can be trimmed in early spring if you want an even neater shape.
Golden leaves are so useful in every garden. They really brighten it, contrasting beautifully with all that green, and making trouble-free colorful gardening a breeze. Most plants with golden foliage need lots of sun to flash their golden smile, but it would be great if we could use golden leaves to brighten shady places too. Well, with the Florida Sunshine Anise bush you really can bring that sunshine to shady corners, because that is where it loves to be, and the golden leaves are even brighter when grown out of the full sun. There is more, too, because the leaves are at their most golden in fall and stay light and bright all winter – exactly when that sunshine is most appreciated. It’s an easy shrub to grow, and it has the pleasant bonus of giving out a delicious anise flavor (Pastis anyone?) when brushed or when you crush a leaf. Make your winter garden a golden place with this easy-care shrub that is even deer resistant.
The Florida Sunshine Anise is an evergreen shrub that grows at a moderate pace to become about 6 feet tall and 3 or 4 feet wide in less than 10 years, with the potential in time to reach 10 feet, if untrimmed. It has many branches from the base, forming a bushy, flame-shaped plant, becoming a little more tree-like in time. The young stems are green in summer, and turn deep burgundy-red in the winter, adding to the beauty of this plant. The leaves are leathery and smooth, shaped like slender ovals 3 to 6 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide. New spring growth is chartreuse green to yellow, staying bright through the summer. In fall they turn a bright yellow, and then pale yellow into the winter, lightening up any bed it is planted in. This coloring holds all the way through winter, only turning greener when the new growth develops in spring.
This shrub has small, inconspicuous flowers in early summer, which are less than an ½-inch across, usually carried single from the leaf base and underneath the stem. They are bowl shaped and pale greenish-yellow, with a pronounced and pleasant fragrance. They could easily be missed, and although they are interesting they are not an important feature of the plant. They develop into small star-shaped fruits that resemble those of a relative, the Chinese star anise, but they are not edible or useful for cooking, and could be mildly toxic.
This shrub is a wonderful addition to shady parts of your garden, such as in woodland areas or shady beds. It is very useful along streams and in wet ground. It is a form of a very rare native plant, so it fits perfectly into any kind of natural garden, where you are helping to keep a rare plant alive. It can also be grown for years in a half-barrel or planter box.
This is the hardest member of this small plant group, growing well in zone 7, 8 and 9 and in sheltered spots in zone 6 as well.
Because the golden leaves are easily burned by too much sun, grow this plant in partial shade, with no more than morning sun. Dappled shade beneath trees is excellent, or any shaded but not too dark a spot. The golden color doesn’t turn green in shade, as so many other golden plants do. The best soil is moist and rich, and the Florida Sunshine Anise will even grow in areas that are occasionally wet and flooded. It doesn’t matter if the earth is acid or alkaline, and clay soils are tolerated well. Avoid dry areas.
No special care is needed to grow the Florida Sunshine Anise. It normally has no pests or diseases, and deer leave it alone as well. If you want a neater plant, trim in spring, before the new leaves develop. That should be all that is needed to grow this easy but delightful shrub.
The anise tree, or swamp star-anise, Illicium parviflorum, grows naturally in Florida and Georgia, although today it is extinct in Georgia and only found in 20 small locations in Florida, due to habitat destruction and land drainage. It grows around swamps and streams, and in areas that are frequently flooded. It can be a small, multi-stem tree somewhat over 20 feet tall. This plant group is found split between Asia and North America, and the spice ‘star-anise’ comes from the Chinese species Illicium verum. The fruits of the swamp star-anise are not usable for cooking.
Charles Webb was a keen plantsman who co-founded a nursery for native plants called Superior Trees, in Lee, Florida. In 2000 another plantsman called Tony Avent visited him, and bought three seedlings of the anise tree from him. All three had leaves that were golden, not green. He took them back to his business, the Plants Delight Nursery in Raleigh North Carolina, and grew them for several years. The best and most golden was selected for propagation, and that plant became the ‘Florida Sunshine’ variety we know today. It is included in the Southern Living® Plant Collection, created by the nursery consortium Plant Development Services, Inc.
The ability of the Florida Sunshine Anise to keep its golden leaves in shade makes it a unique addition to any garden, and brightens those shady spots that can be such problems. But order now, because everyone wants a touch of that Florida sun, and these plants will soon be gone.