Anise myrtle (Syzygium anisatum) is a native rainforest species that has leaves with strong liquorice and aniseed flavours. Also known as aniseed myrtle and ringwood, it is found naturally in the subtropical rainforests of northern New South Wales along the streams and lower slopes of the Bellinger and Nambucca valleys. In the wild, anise myrtle is a medium to tall tree, occasionally growing 45 metres tall. In commercial plantations, it is pruned for ease of management and harvest, and maintained to the size of a large shrub or small tree.
The leaves of the anise myrtle are dried and ground for tea and spice, or distilled to produce essential oil. Processors and restaurants traditionally sourced leaves from wild-harvested product. However, market demand for consistent supply and concern about the environmental impact of wild harvest on rainforest ecosystems, led to cultivation of the tree in plantations. Anise myrtle performs well in and has been an attractive ornamental tree in landscapes and home gardens for many years.
Anise myrtle is a small but stable native food industries. As at 2012, the estimated annual production of leaf was 6–10 tonnes, with a farm gate value of AU$290,000; and the production of essential oil produced was 0.7–1.0 tonnes with a farm gate value of AU$120,000.
Anise myrtle is typically grown on farms with other rainforest food species, such as lemon myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, lemon-scented tea trees, riberries, Davidson’s plums and sometimes round or finger limes and other species.
Facts and figures
- Anise myrtle leaf is one of the highest sources of the compound anethole which gives it the aniseed flavour and aroma
- The mature leaves of anise myrtle are mainly dried and ground for use as herbal tea and spice
- Anise myrtle essential oil can be used as a food flavouring, or in health, cosmetic and body care products
- As at 2012, the estimated annual production of anise myrtle leaf in Australia was 6–10 tonnes, with a farm gate value of AU$290,000
- As at 2013, Australian plantings can supply much greater quantities than production levels, as harvest is done at a level to only meet market demand
Accurate information is not readily available for the native foods industry but a recent stocktake of the industryprovides good estimates of industry characteristics, production figures and product value.
The estimated annual production of anise myrtle leaf, as reported in 2012, was 6–10 tonnes, with an estimated farm gate value of AU$290,000. Annual production of anise myrtle oil was estimated at 0.7–1.0 tonnes, with a farm gate value of AU$120,000.
The industry stocktake reported that in 2001 over 30,000 trees were planted in south east Queensland, and the northern and mid-north coastal regions of New South Wales. Many growers planted several thousand trees in single species stands and these are generally on farms that also have lemon myrtle stands. It is believed that existing plantings have the capacity to produce much greater volumes but there are not the markets available to consume the supply.
Some growers have less than 300 anise myrtle trees in mixed species stands, with lemon myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, lemon-scented tea trees, riberries and Davidson’s plums and sometimes round or finger limes and other species. The concept was based on not creating a monoculture, which provides good pest and disease management, however machine harvesting is then not possible and therefore production volumes are limited. This system suits an operation that value-adds and markets its own product.