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Tree 10–15 m. Bark dark grey. Branchlets congested. Leaves irregularly alternate, more densely placed at branchlet ends, thickly leathery, densely pellucid-punctate with oily glands, 5–15 × 2–5 cm, obovate-elliptic, oblanceolate or elliptic, base attenuate to cuneate, apex cuspidate to short-acuminate; midrib prominent below, slightly impressed above; petiole 0.8–2 cm, narrowly winged. Flowers solitary, axillary at shoot tips, borne on peduncles to 4 cm; perianth segments 7–12, thinly papery, inconspicuously pellucid-punctate, pink to dark red, the largest 0.9–1.2 × 0.8–1.2 cm; stamens 11–20; follicles 7–9(–11), 2.5–4.5 mm long at flowering. Fruiting peduncle 2–5.6 cm; follicetum 3.5–4 cm diameter; follicles 14–20 × 7–12 × 3–6 mm, apex obtuse to obtusely beaked. Flowering March to May and August to October, fruiting September to October and March to April (China). Yuhu et al. 2008. Distribution CHINA: considered native in southern and western Guangxi, but widely cultivated in China and elsewhere in southeast Asia. Habitat Forests, between 200 and 1600 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 9–10. Conservation status Not evaluated.
The southern origins of Illicium verum would seem to suggest that it had no hope of growing outside in our area, but a 2 m tree at Tregrehan demonstrates otherwise. This does have a sheltered spot in a sheltered garden, but has not been damaged by frost since planting in 2003. The cultivated trees from which the seed was obtained were 15–20 m tall. If attempted, I. verum should be given a very warm site.