The star anise is a small evergreen tree native to south-western China and northern Vietnam. When ripe, the hard and brown fruits of this tree open out in the form of a star, hence the name.
The star anise tree comes into production in the sixth year and may continue bearing for 100 years. The fruits of the tree are 8-point star shaped and make up the spice when dried. Although the star anise is entirely different from anise botanically, the fruits of both contain essential oils of similar chemical composition and they taste very much alike.
Star Anise is available whole and ground.