SWEET CICELY

Myrrhis odorata

Carrot Family [Apiaceae]  

month8apr month8april month8May month8jun month8june

status
statusZneophyte
 
flower
flower8white
 
morph
morph8actino
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZclustered
 
type
typeZumbel
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8aniseed smell8anise smell8star anise smell8pernod smell8ricard smell8ouzo
anise

20th May 2013, roadside, Barnside Moor, Langsett. Photo: © RWD
Likes to occupy roadside verges amidst grass on high ground where it replaces Cow Parsley.


9th June 2008, Taddington Village, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Grows to 1m or more in height.


29th May 2008, Peak Forest Canal, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Leaves fern-like and between 2- to 4-pinnate. There are no bracts underneath the branches.


11th May 2005, Farleton, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Note the second sets of creamy flowers beneath the taller foamy umbels.


2nd May 2008, Hollingworth Canal, Daisy Nook, Gtr Manchester. Photo: © RWD
The second set of creamy flowers.


27th May 2005, Chinley, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The white flowers in the main umbel.


16th April 2011, Calder & Hebble Navigation, Wakefield. Photo: © RWD
One of the smaller umbels, showing the typical umbellifer flowers, with two long petals and three much shorter ones, with the longest on the periphery of the umbel.


16th April 2011, Calder & Hebble Navigation, Wakefield. Photo: © RWD
Two long white 'stalks' extend from the two tiny white globular constructs in the centre.


9th June 2008, Taddington Village, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Note the greyish/silverish markings on some of the leaves looking a little like common salt encrustations.


29th May 2008, Peak Forest Canal, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Ripe tasty seed pods ready for nibbling.


29th May 2008, Peak Forest Canal, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The seed pods also have hairs.


30th July 2007, Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Linthwaite. Photo: © RWD
Seed pods too ripe for eating.


20th Sept 2007, Wildboarclough, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Topside of leaf.


20th Sept 2007, Wildboarclough, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Underside of leaf.


20th Sept 2007, Wildboarclough, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The light-green leaves are very fern-like. The stems have fine hairs. Beware similar looking umbellifers which have darker green fern-like leaves, do not smell of aniseed, and which may be deadly poisonous!


Not to be semantically confused with : Sweet Alison, Sweet Chestnut, Sweet Flag, Sweet Grasses, Sweet Gum, Sweet Tobacco, Sweet Vernal-grass, Sweet Violet, Small-flowered Sweet-briar, Sweet William or Sweet-William Catchfly [plants belonging to wildly differing families]

The leaves are 2 to 4-pinnate, fern-like and have a slight resemblance in shape and form to some other members of the Carrot Family, possibly poisonous ones. But those of Sweet Cicely are a lighter green, and smell of aniseed. Both stems and seed pods are covered in thin hairs reminiscent of those on Stinging Nettles, but they don't sting. It is mainly a plant of northern England and southern Scotland.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics : Smells of aniseed when crushed, as does Fennel, but Sweet Cicely has fern-like leaves whereas those of Fennel are thin and thread-like.

Distinguishing Feature : Apart from the pervasive smell of aniseed, the leaves are fern-like and sometimes have greyish markings on both the top and the underside.

Not to be semantically confused with : Sweet Alison (Lobularia maritima) [a plant belonging to the Cabbage family (Brassicaceae)]

Both the leaves and the seed pods, which are edible, liberate the sweet smell of aniseed when crushed between the fingers. In times past children used to eat the ripe seed pods as a snack on the long walk to school, the taste sensation being that of aniseed, due to the same chemical, anethole which is synthesized in the plant. Anethole is also present in two or three other members of the Carrot family, Fennel being one. The seeds can be eaten in salads whilst they are still green. The leaves can be blanched, deep-fried in butter and eaten as a starter. Sweet Cicely is used as one of the ingredients (amongst many) in the making of Charteuse. The leaves were once wielded in the polishing of oak furniture, which must have made any furniture smell delicious.


Anethole is the olfactory component of Oil of Aniseed, which is obtained from Aniseed Pimpinella Anisum, not a native plant. It also contributes to the flavour of Tarragon and of Fennel. An isomer of Anethole, called Estragole (only the position of the double-bond has changed) is found in Marjoram. Trans-Anethole, as shown above (but not cis-Anethole) is the sweet component of Sweet Cicely and has been shown to be 13 times sweeter than sucrose (sugar). Anethole is used at low concentrations as flavouring agents in foods, but possesses undesiraeble hedonistic properties which prevents its use as a sweetener in replacement for sucrose. [Likewise trans-Cinnamaldehyde is also sweet, 50 times sweeter than sucrose, but not the cis-form. It is not found in Sweet Cicely, but in the leaves of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum)].

para-Anisaldehyde (shown), which also smells of aniseed, is found in Anise, Fennel and in Sweet Cicely.


  Myrrhis odorata  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Apiaceae  

Distribution
family8Carrot family8Umbelliferae  family8Apiaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Myrrhis
Myrrhis
(Sweet Cicely)

SWEET CICELY

Myrrhis odorata

Carrot Family [Apiaceae]  

WildFlowerFinder Homepage