Star anise is a plant native to China, that belongs to the Magnoliaceae family. In common with anise, star anise has only the essential oil (or anethole), contained in the seed. Although not belonging to the anise family, its aroma is practically identical.
The latter, in turn, is enclosed in a star-shaped pod.
Star anise is particularly used in asian cuisine and especially in stews. It is one of the ingredients of the famous five-spice "Chinese powder", in Thailand and Vietnam it is used with pork and goose.