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Myrrhis odorata - Sweet Cicely

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Apiales - Family: Apiaceae

Myrrhis odorata, Sweet Cicely

Description

Sweet Cicely is a strongly aromatic umbelliferous herb that grows up to about a metre tall. When leaves are crushed the smell of aniseed is very strong. The white flowers form irregular umbels and have five deeply notched petals. Male and femal flowers occur on the same plant, although some umbels may have only male flowers.

Umbel of flowers of Sweet Cicely, Myrrhis odorata

The 2- to 4-pinate leaves of Sweet Cicely are usuaally a lighter shade of green than other early-season umbellifers.

Leaves of Sweet Cicely, Myrrhis odorata

Often the leaves develop silvery patches, as in the example pictured above.

Distribution

Found throughout Britain and Ireland, Sweet Cicely is most common in parts of northern England and Scotland. Although found on roadside verges and woodland edges, this plant is particularly common on the banks of rivers and streams.

Habitat

Sweet Cicely favours damp soil but it copes well with light shade or full exposure, often thriving at higher altitudes than Cow Parsely, which generally favours drier locations.

Silvery makings of leaves of Sweet Cicely, Myrrhis odorata

Blooming Times

The first flowers appear in April and are usually past their best by the end of June; however, in deeply shaded locations flowers can sometimes be found well in to July.

Uses

Sweet Cicely is edible and is quite widely grown as an aromatic medicinal herb, said to help asthma sufferers and those having other respiratory and digestive tract problems. The leaves taste of aniseed, and the roots have a liquorice flavour.

Etymology

Myrrhis, the genus name, comes from the Greek word for perfume, while odorata means fragrant. Sweet Cicely does indeed have an odour that many would describe as pleasant!


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