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Foeniculum vulgare dulce - (Mill.)Batt.&Trab.

Common Name Sweet Fennel
Family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards Skin contact with the sap or essential oil is said to cause photo-sensitivity and/or dermatitis in some people[218, 222]. Ingestion of the oil can cause vomiting, seizures and pulmonary oedema[222].
Habitats Not found in the wild.
Range A cultivar of F. vulgare.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Foeniculum vulgare dulce Sweet Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare dulce Sweet Fennel


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Physical Characteristics

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Foeniculum vulgare dulce is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.5 m (5ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from August to October, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.


F. dulce. DC. non Mill.


 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves;  Root;  Seed;  Stem.
Edible Uses:

Leaves - raw or cooked[52]. A delicious aniseed flavour[183], the young leaves are best since older ones soon become tough. They are often used as a garnish on raw or cooked dishes or added to salads[183]. The leaves are difficult to store dried[200]. Leaf stalks and flower heads - raw or cooked[14, 37, 52, 183]. An aniseed flavour[K]. The aromatic seeds are used as a flavouring in cakes, bread, stuffings etc[2, 4, 5, 21, 27, 183]. The sprouted seeds can be added to salads[183]. An essential oil from the seed is used as a food flavouring in similar ways to the whole seed[1, 46, 183]. Root - cooked[53]. The flavour is somewhat parsnip-like. The leaves or the seeds can be used to make a herb tea[16, 183].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Analgesic;  Antiinflammatory;  Antispasmodic;  Aromatic;  Carminative;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue;  Expectorant;  
Galactogogue;  Hallucinogenic;  Stimulant;  Stomachic.

Fennel is a commonly used household remedy, being useful in the treatment of a variety of complaints, especially those of the digestive system. The seeds, leaves and roots can be used, but the seeds are most active medicinally and are the part normally used[4]. An essential oil is often extracted from the seed for medicinal use, though it should not be given to pregnant women[4, 238]. The plant is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, galactogogue, hallucinogenic, laxative, stimulant and stomachic[4, 7, 9, 21, 147, 165, 176, 192, 238]. Fennel is often added to purgatives in order to allay their tendency to cause gripe, and also to improve the flavour[4]. An infusion of the root is used to treat urinary disorders[238]. An essential oil obtained from the seed is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Normalising'[210]. The essential oil is bactericidal, carminative and stimulant[218]. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity[222].

Other Uses

Dye;  Essential;  Repellent;  Strewing.

The seed yields up to 5% of an essential oil[1, 4, 46]. This is used medicinally, as a food flavouring, in toothpastes, soaps, perfumery, air fresheners etc[1, 46, 238]. The flavour of fennel oil depends upon its two main constituents. 'Fenchone' is a bitter tasting element whilst 'anethole' has a sweet anise-like flavour[238]. The proportions of these two ingredients varies according to strain and region. Plants growing in the Mediterranean and southern Europe usually have a sweet oil whilst plants growing in central and northern Europe usually produce a more bitter oil[238]. The quality of the oil also depends upon how well the seed has been dried - the oil from fully ripened and dried seeds being much sweeter and more fragrant[245]. The dried plant is an insect repellent[14, 53], the crushed leaves are effective for keeping dogs free of fleas[201]. The plant was formerly used as a strewing herb[201]. Yellow and brown dyes are obtained from the flowers and leaves combined[168].

Cultivation details

Succeeds in most soils[1] but prefers a sunny dry position[200]. A cultivar of F. vulgare, this is not the genuine Florence fennel since it does not have swollen leaf stems[200]. It is used in much the same way as fennel. See F. vulgare azoricum for the genuine Florence fennel[K]. The flowers attract bees and hoverflies[24]. Fennel is a poor companion plant in the garden, it inhibits the growth of nearby plants, especially beans, tomatoes and kohl rabi[14, 18]. It is itself inhibited by wormwood and coriander[14, 18].


Seed - best sown in early spring in situ[1]. Division in March as the new growth appears[16, 200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Agastache foeniculumAnise Hyssop, Blue giant hyssop51
Foeniculum vulgareFennel, Sweet fennel53
Foeniculum vulgare azoricumFlorence Fennel33


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Dr. med. Veronika Rampold   Fri Dec 23 2005

In 2003 when I seed-sowed "wildflower lawn mixture" there were some seeds of sweet fennel in it. The place I sowed it was a sunny and quite dry one with clay soil. When I discovered there was fennel among the seedlings I literally "babyed" it (an old herbal says that fennel seedlings love to be fertilised with milk and sugar, like babies!), keeping any kind of disturbance esp. the all-pervading slugs away. In 2004 the fennel bloomed the first time. I ate the young stems instead of letting the seed ripen. This summer the fennel plants had grown to large bushes with plenty of umbels which I now preserved, and harvested shortly before ripening, as usual in medicinal fennel seed (see Madaus´work on phytotherapeuticals). It was three plants only and I harvested about 400 grammes of superb medicinal fennel. The fennel plants gave first young shoots quite early, around Easter, I gratefully took them as the first fresh snack from the garden. The seeds are currently being used for trituration exercises in Homeopathy courses for pharmacists. Some of the participants remarked that the smell made them merry, laughing more than usual. Saint Hildegard of Bingen says of fennel that it "maketh merry", which has thus been verified. Others said the smell gave them headache. a natural thing for a substance that can make merry, such as wine. Old Herbals say of fennel that it be an antidote and this too I found verified - regarding my tobacco throat. During the trituration lessons my desire for scraping and coughing is always suppressed completely. Data above are excerpted from a little fennel monography I am making up for Homeopathists. (Language: German)

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