categoryZCrops Crops List 

FENNEL

Foeniculum vulgare

Carrot Family [Apiaceae]  

month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

category
category8Crops
 
status
statusZarchaeophyte
 
status
statusZarchaeophyte
 
flower
flower8yellow
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZclustered
 
type
typeZumbel
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8aniseed smell8anise smell8star anise smell8pernod smell8ricard smell8ouzo
anise

31st July 2007, Hare Parrock, near Arnside, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Up to 2 metres tall. All umbels have hermaphroditic (aka bisexual) flowers.


22nd June 2016, sand dunes, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Filligree leaves at intervals up the stem, each emerging just above a paler-green, linear bract.


20th July 2007, Cumbria Coastal Path, Near Cartmel. Photo: © RWD
The fuzziness of the fine needle-like foliage is in evidence. The leaves are 3 to 4 pinnate, which explains why there are so many of the leaflets. The end leaflets are between 5 to 50mm long and not all lying in the same plane. This specimen is suffering stress of some sort; the leaves are going yellow then brown nearer the ground.


29th June 2014, sand dunes, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The pale linear bracts at each leaf junction are here seen to be open on the upper surface.


2nd Oct 2019, Todmorden canalside herb garden, West Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Three umbels with their multiple umbellets. There are many more of these on a Fennel plant (between 10 to 40 umbels). There are usually no bracts beneath the umbels and no bracteoles beneath the umbellets.


31st Aug 2018, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Some umbels still have flowers whilst others have turned to the fruiting stage.


20th July 2007, Cumbria Coastal Path, Near Cartmel. Photo: © RWD
Open-plan flowers: there is plenty of space between both the flowers and the sub-umbels.


7th Aug 2007, Near Martin Mere, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
Note how the in-furled petals resemble the negative stud of PP3 battery terminals. The flowers have no sepals. The outer petals do not radiate outwards as they do on some umbellifers (such as Hogweed).


7th Aug 2007, Near Martin Mere, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are yellow, one of only few umbellifers to possess a yellow umbel. Many of the flowers here have shed their rolled-over petals and are now going to seed.


21st Sept 2013, sand dunes, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Two rather large umbels with many rays. Both are turning to seed.


2nd Oct 2019, Todmorden canalside herb garden, West Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
One umblel with many umbellets. The umbels have smooth rays which are between 1 to 6cm long.


2nd Oct 2019, Todmorden canalside herb garden, West Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
No bracts beneath either the umbels or umbellets in this specimen (and in most specimens).


21st Sept 2013, Marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Nearly ripe Fennel seeds, used in cooking to impart an aniseed flavour to dishes such as curries. (Two ripe ones top left). When ripe they are between 4 and 6mm long.


2nd Oct 2019, Todmorden canalside herb garden, West Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
An umbellet with ripening fruits from below.


21st Sept 2013, Marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Un-ripe Fennel fruits. A failed fruit on the far left.


2nd Oct 2019, Todmorden canalside herb garden, West Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The yellowish styles are shorter than the concolorous stylopodium they sit upon, and can be either divergent from each other or recurved (as here).


2nd Oct 2019, Todmorden canalside herb garden, West Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The yellowish styles sit upon an enlarged concolorous base which forms the stylopodium. It looks like there was a stalkless infertile flower nestled right at the centre where the raylets emerge.


2nd Oct 2019, Todmorden canalside herb garden, West Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Ripe fennel seed pods ready for use in cuisine. They are ovoid-oblong in shape, hardly flatter on the narrowest dimension, with thick prominent ribs running lengthways.


22nd June 2016, sand dunes, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A pale green bract and the leaf emerging from near the end.


22nd June 2016, sand dunes, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Bract plus linear leaflets.


7th Aug 2007, Near Martin Mere, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
The sheaths around bifurcations in the stem are not inflated.


22nd May 2015, dunes, Highfield, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The leaf is 3 to 4-pinnate with branching linear, needle-like leaflets


7th May 2017, sand dunes, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The end of a leaf.


7th May 2017, sand dunes, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A few of the needle-like leaves are also branched, meaning that sometimes they are 5-pinnate!


7th Aug 2007, Near Martin Mere, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
The very fine filigree nature of the leaves.


27th March 2009, Farmers Market, Sizergh, Strickland, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
Fennel as it appears as a cultivar vegetable, with a swollen edible stem-base resembling a heart, this one with 5 main 'arteries' (stems) coming out of it. Wild specimens of Fennel do not have such swollen stem-bases and are poisonous; they should not be eaten.


Some similarities to : Giant Fennel, but Giant Fennel is up to 3 metres height, whereas Fennel reaches but 2½ metres. Also to Dill, a perennial herb with yellow flowers similar to those of Fennel and with which it can cross-breed.

Resemblance to : Hog's Fennel, but Hogs Fennel has darker yellow flowers, and the leaves are not thread-like as in Fennel, but repeatedly cloven into thin strands.

Distinguishing Feature : Fennel smells faintly and tastes slightly of aniseed, but certainly not as strongly as does Sweet Cicely but which has white flowers and not yellow flowers. Note how the individual flowers, with their five in-curled petals, look like the female halves of the metal studs used to 'button' up modern waterproof clothing, or like PP9/PP3 battery terminals.

Fennel releases a volatile chemical signalling molecule which inhibits the growth of surrounding plants. Your Author cannot find which volatile is responsible for this effect, but whilst trying, he found that the damaged leaves of plants (in general) release 2-Hexenal and other 6-carbon atom volatile aldehydes which also act as signalling molecules to other plants in the vicinity, triggering several responses in neighbouring plants.

It was noted in the 18th Century that after snakes had shed their skins they consumed Fennel to help restore their sight, due to the presence of Anethole. Fennel is also used to flavour liqueurs and toothpaste.

The leaves of Fennel, when it is not yet flowering, can resemble those of Garden Asparagus, or even the Mayweeds.

The thick upper stems of fennel quickly taper at the ends, to end in a thread like leaves which branch off. It is an archaeophyte and occurs in open ground, waste places and especially near the seaside where it is well naturalised. It occurs throughout the British Isles but is rarer in the northern half of Britain and all of Ireland.

The garden variety of Fennel, a cultivar, can be eaten as a vegetable, usually the lower part before it splits into many stems and just above the roots. The vegetable Fennel has layers reminiscent of onion layers, the whole thing resembling an alien heart with several aortas emerging out of the upper-most part; these being the beginnings of the multiple stems. Sweet Fennel (aka Florence Fennel) (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce) has larger and more aromatic fruits and swollen leaf-bases containing more anethole. Carosella (Foeniculum vulgare var. piperatum) is another edible form grown mainly in Italy. Wild varieties of Fennel are poisonous and should not be eaten!

Fennel also contains several phototoxic furocoumarins such as Bergapten, Imperatorin and Psoralen, which can cause a reaction when in contact with skin which is then exposed to sunlight, but they are normally safe enough to eat after the Fennel has been cooked.


USE BY BUTTERFLIES
LAYS EGGS ON CATERPILLAR CHRYSALIS BUTTERFLY
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Dillapiole is a phenylpropanoid related to Eugenol and to Apiole, and is present in both Dill and in the roots of Fennel. Chemically it is similar to Myristicin found in Nutmeg which has some hallucinogenic and mind-altering properties.


Fennel contains the odorous aniseed-like molecules Anethole and its isomer Estragole, and Anisaldehyde. Anethole has an anise-like smell and taste not dissimilar to liquorice and possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties and is a potent anti-metastasis drug to prevent cancer cell migration through the bloodstream. As well as also smelling of anise, Estragole also has a hint of mint and sweetness about it and is used in perfumes and flavourings, but its further use is being re-appraised; it is suspected of being both carcinogenic and genotoxic; it has been shown that Estragole can give animals tumours.


Both Fenchone and Fenchyl Alcohol are found in Fennel, from which they probably derived their names. Fenchone is an aldehyde, which has a warmish smell of mint and camphor. Fenchol or Fenchyl Alcohol is a minor constituent. Both are very similar to Camphor.


The volatile oil from Fennel seeds contains the mono-terpene α-Pinene which is similar in structure to Verbenol and Myrtenol and contains the same reactive 4-membered ring. It is found in many coniferous trees, including Pine, from whence it derived its name. It has a resinous and pungent pine-like odour and is also found in Rosemary. It exists in two optical-isomeric configurations, the (-) species being more predominant in European Pines; the (+) in North American pines. A racemic mixture of the two forms is present in Eucalyptus oil.

The similarly smelling isomer, β-Pinene has the double bond moved from the 4-membered ring to the methyl group and does not occur in Fennel, but does in Yarrow.

Octenol, or more specifically 1-octen-3-ol, is also known as 'mushroom alcohol' for it smells of mushrooms, and is indeed present in several mushrooms (including edible mushrooms) as well, surprisingly, in Fennel and in exhaled human breath. Octenol attracts flies and insects, and is used as the attractant (together with CO2 in high-voltage fly traps to kill them. It is also used in some perfumes; little wonder some smell so awful.

Sabinene has a similar chemical skeleton to that of Thujone, but lacks oxygen atoms. Sabinene is a bi-cyclic mono-terpene with a strained cyclopropane ring. It occurs not only in the fruit/seeds of Fennel but also those of Carrot and Black Pepper where it contributes to black peppers' spiciness. It is present in the trees Holm Oak and Norway Spruce.


Petroselinic Acid is also found in Garden Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) from which it obtains its name. It is a Fatty Acid which is positionally isomeric with Oleic Acid where the double bond is on position 6 atom instead of number 9. It is present in Fennel and Coriander seeds and is a characteristic fatty acid constituent of the Umbelliferae (Carrot Family) of plants. It contains no Selenium.


  Foeniculum vulgare  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Apiaceae  

Distribution
family8carrot family8Umbelliferae family8Apiaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Foeniculum
Foeniculum
(Fennel)

FENNEL

Foeniculum vulgare

Carrot Family [Apiaceae]  

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