Star anise doesn't just have fabulous flowers, but they are the flowers that are basal to all other flowering plants. As explained in blog this links to "basal" means that this lineage has a very ancient common ancestry with all other flowering plants, the so-called ANITA grade of ancient lineages where the I stands for Illicium the genus and family name-sake of star anise. The fruitlets and seeds used as the spice are part of a whorl of pistils that look a bit like a crown in the center of these flowers. TPP almost decided to study this genus many, many years ago, and has a certain fondness for it ever since. This genus has what botanists call a disjunct distribution with species in SE Asia and SE North America and adjacent Mexico and Caribbean. Prior continental positions account for such distributions, so yes, very old.