Sweet Cicely - Myrrhis odorata

Sweet Cicely - Myrrhis odorata

Edible plant - novice

Other common names: Anise Chervil, Anise Myrrh, Garden Myrrh, Sweet Myrrh, Sweet Chervil, British Myrrh, Spanish Chervil

Season - Spring - Summer

Scientific name meaning: Myrrhis is from the Greek Myrizo, meaning to rub with ointment. Odorata comes from the Latin Odoratus, meaning sweet-smelling

Sweet Cicely habitat

Habitat

Found in parks, gardens, on roadsides, pasture, and woodland. Most commonly found in Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, Scotland and Northern England. Found less often in Wales, The Midlands and Southern England.

Overall structure

Can reach 70-200cm in height and around 1m in width. Despite having sparse leaves, it is very bushy at its base. 

Leaves

Dark green, hairy and often with white patches, the leaves are fern-like. The compound leaves are 2-3 times pinnate with an overall triangular shape. The leaf stems (petioles) are hollow and circular, and sheath the main plant stem. The leaves smell strongly of aniseed when crushed.

Sweet Cicely flower.jpg

Flowers

The white umbels of flowers appearing from April to August. They have a sweet mild-aniseed fragrance that strengthens dramatically when crushed.

Sweet Cicely seeds.jpg

Seeds

The elongated seeds pods - resembling long, thin grains of rice - are bright green as they begin to form. They ripen to almost black and become very hard.

Possible lookalikes

Sweet Cicely is one of the Apiaceae (Umbellifer or Carrot) family, and could be confused with poisonous members like Hemlock (pictured), Rough Chervil, or Fool's Parsley. However, the poisonous members of this family lack the strong aniseed smell that Sweet Cicely has.

Use as a food The leaves and young seeds can be used raw in salads. They are considered too strong as a cooked side, but, along with the seeds, can be used to flavour vegetables, as a general flavouring, or as part of a spice mix. The leaves and seeds can add sweetness to tart fruit in puddings, be made into syrups, or used to infuse milk, creams, alcohol, soft-drinks.

Leaves have a stronger flavour before the plant has flowered.

The young root can also be used raw or cooked, as per leaves and seeds

Hazards None known at time of writing

Use in herbal medicine Sweet Cicely has been used to treat stomach complaints, flatulence, woulds, coughs, and snake and dog bites. It is believed to be an antiseptic

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses Has been used as a wood polish and to create a yellow dye

Importance to other species As an early-flowering plant, Sweet Cicely is an important food source for pollinators

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!