Illicium

Definitions

  • WordNet 3.6
    • n Illicium anise trees: evergreen trees with aromatic leaves
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Illicium (Bot) A genus of Asiatic and American magnoliaceous trees, having star-shaped fruit; star anise. The fruit of Illicium anisatum is used as a spice in India, and its oil is largely used in Europe for flavoring cordials, being almost identical with true oil of anise.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n illicium A genus of eastern Asiatic and American evergreen shrubs, belonging to the natural order Magnoliaceæ. The plants of this genus are called anise-trees, from their fine aromatic scent. The seeds of I. anisatum (Chinese anise), a shrub growing 8 or 10 feet high, are stomachic and carminative, and yield a very fragrant volatile oil. The fruit is the star-anise of the shops. The Chinese burn the seeds in their temples, and Europeans employ them to aromatize certain liqueurs or cordials, such as anisette. I. religiosum is a Japanese species, about the size of a cherry-tree, held sacred by the natives, who decorate the tombs of their dead with wreaths of its flowers, and burn the fragrant bark as incense before their deities. From the property of the bark of consuming slowly and uniformly, the watchmen in Japan burn it powdered in a tube to mark the time. The American species I. Floridanum and I. parviflorum are natives of the southern United States. The former is an evergreen shrub, 6 to 10 feet high, with somewhat fleshy leaves and large flowers. The latter has smaller flowers. Fruits of this genus have been recognized in a fossil state in the London Clay (Eocene) of the Isle of Sheppey, and in the lignites of Brandon in Vermont, probably of the same age, and leaf-impressions in the Cretaceous of Bohemia.
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Etymology

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
So called, in allusion to its aroma, from L. illicium, an allurement