anise (ănˈĭs) [key], annual plant ( Pimpinella anisum ) of the family Umbelliferae (parsley family), native to the Mediterranean region but long cultivated elsewhere for its aromatic and medicinal qualities. It has flat-topped clusters of small yellow or white flowers that become seedlike fruits—the aniseed of commerce, used in food flavoring. Anise oil is derived from the seeds and sometimes from the leaves. The oil, composed chiefly of anethole, is used in medicinals, dentifrices, perfumes, beverages, and, in drag hunting, to scent a trail for dogs in the absence of a fox. The anise of the Bible (Mat. 23.23) is dill, a plant of the same family. Anisette is an anise-flavored liqueur.
Anise oil is also obtained from the fruit of the Chinese star anise ( Illicium verum ), an unrelated, slow-growing evergreen tree native to SE China and NE Vietnam that can reach 60 ft (18 m) in height. The unripe, anise-flavored, star-shaped fruit of the tree is used whole or ground in Asian cooking as spice and in traditional Asian medicine. A compound extracted from the fruit is used to make the anti-influenza drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu).
Anise is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Apiales, family Umbelliferae. Star anise is classified in the class Magnoliopsida, order Illiciales, family Illiciaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.