Anetholea anisata

Aniseed Myrtle, Ringwood

Family: Myrtaceae

An attractive tree-myrtle, reaching 30 metres tall. It has a general lilly-pilly appearance. Can spread to 10 m wide or more.
The bark is brown and corky.

It grows only on the North Coast of NSW and extends into south-east Queensland. It is considered somewhat rare, growing in subtropical rainforest, often along streams. Known from the Nambucca and Bellinger Valleys.

The leaves are opposite and lanceolate, to about 13 cm long and 2.5 cm wide with a glossy upper surface and non-glossy paler lower surface. The crushed leaves have a distinctive aniseed smell.

The flowers are produced in a panicle-like cluster in leaf axils or at the terminals. Flowers are cream/white in colour with the sepals very small, about 1 mm long, petals to 3 mm long. Being a myrtle, it is the stamens of the flowers that are the showy parts, produced in large number to about 5 mm long.

A small fruit is produced (schizocarp), which eventually splits apart to release small seeds.

In the garden

A very hardy tree with an attractive canopy and overall form. It is grown by members of Sutherland Group at least. Relatively easy to grow, although many Myrtaceae trees can take a while to establish and grow. But this is balanced by trees being very long-lived.

It will provide dense shade. Needs some room to grow as it will spread out. Expect a 10 m tree if grown in a garden.

Likes a well-drained soil with some enrichment. Can be pruned to create a denser shape when small. Pleasant smelling foliage and attractive flowers.

May be susceptible to Myrtle Rust.

The plant is grown commercially for essential oils.


Propagation from seed or soft-wood cuttings.

Other information

This species used to be classified as Backhousia anisata and some botanists treat it as Syzygium anisata as part of a larger Syzygium genus. It it currently classified by the NSW Herbarium as Anetholea as it has a differing fruit to Syzygium and is thought to be more closely related to Acmena.

This is the only species in the genus – endemic to Australia.

Unlikely to be prone to bushfire. Can regenerate from seed bank after fire (intervals permitting) as well as branch shoots and suckering stems/trunks.

Anetholea – referring to the species of the genus bearing the organic compound Anethole, a large component of the taste and smell of anise and fennel as well as liquorice.

anisata – having leaves which smell like anise or “anise-bearing”.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild; but is considered rare.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Anetholea anisata profile page              https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Anetholea~anisata

Wikipedia – Syzygium anisata profile page                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syzygium_anisatum

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia. (under Backhousia anisata).

By Dan Clarke