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Myrrhis odorata - (L.)Scop.

Common Name Sweet Cicely, Anise
Family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Grassy places, hedges and woods in hilly regions, often near human habitations[4, 9, 17].
Range Mountainous regions of Europe, including Britain.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Myrrhis odorata Sweet Cicely, Anise

Myrrhis odorata Sweet Cicely, Anise


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Myrrhis odorata is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Hedgerow;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Root  Seed
Edible Uses: Tea

Leaves - raw or cooked[2, 5, 37, 52]. Excellent raw, the leaves have a delicious sweet aniseed flavour[9] and are liked by the majority of people who try them[K]. They are also used as a flavouring for vegetables[183], and are an important ingredient of the herb mix 'bouquet garni'[244]. They can be cooked with tart fruits in order to reduce their acidity[14. 183]. The plant produces fresh leaves from late winter to early the following winter[200]. The leaves can also be dried for later use[21]. It is best to prevent the plant from flowering if the leaves are required for culinary use, because they lose their flavour when the plant is in flower[244]. Root - raw or cooked[1, 2, 5, 14, 37]. A similar flavour to the leaves[K]. So long as it is not too old, the root can be boiled and mixed with other vegetables or added to salads[9]. Seed - raw or cooked[1, 2, 183]. An aniseed flavour, it is usually used as a flavouring[14, 115] but can also be eaten raw whilst it is still green and before the fibrous coat has formed[1, 9]. It makes an excellent mouth freshener[K]. A tea is made from the leaves[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

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.
Antiseptic  Aromatic  Carminative  Expectorant  Stomachic

The whole plant, including the seed, is aromatic, carminative, expectorant and stomachic[4]. It is useful in the treatment of coughs and flatulence, and also as a gentle stimulant for the stomach[4, 238]. The root is antiseptic and a decoction has been used to treat snake and dog bites[4, 244]. An ointment made from the roots has been used to ease gout and soothe wounds[244].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


The leaves and the seed make good polishes for wood[4, 6, 115]. You just rub them over the wood and then rub the wood with a clean cloth to remove any greenness. It is particularly good on oak panels[5], giving a lovely glossy finish and an aromatic smell[244]. Invertabrate shelter, Nectary. Aromatic.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a moist rich soil in a shady position[14, 52, 200]. Thrives in all soils[1] in sun or shade[111, 200]. This species is hardy to about -15°c according to one report[200] whilst another says that it is hardy to at least -20°c[187]. Plants often self-sow freely[200]. Sweet cicely used to be quite widely cultivated as a food plant but is now only occasionally grown in the herb garden. This is a shame since it is an extremely useful and tasty plant to grow and can provide food all year round[K]. A good bee plant[4]. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 7 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a clumper with limited spread [1-2]. The root pattern is flat with shallow roots forming a plate near the soil surface [1-2]. The root pattern is a tap root similar to a carrot going directly down [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe since stored seed is difficult to germinate[1]. The seed can be sown in an outdoor seedbed or, if supplies are limited, it can be sown in pots in a cold frame. Thin the seedlings in the outdoor bed as necessary (eat the thinnings) and transplant the young plants into their final positions in the following spring. Prick out the pot-grown seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in spring. Division in spring or autumn. Remove the tapering tap root and cut the remaining root into sections with at least one eye per section and replant in their permanent position.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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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 NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Oreomyrrhis hookeri Perennial0.1 -  LMNM10 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Diane Harcourt   Wed Feb 15 2006

I would like to try growing this - where can I get seeds? Very interesting entry. Diane Harcourt

Richard Torrens   Sun May 4 2008

FFF - Food For Free Descriptions and photos of various wild food plants

Linacre Griffiths   Sat Aug 15 2009

Thank you for the info about Myrrhis odoratus, BUT I live in Zone 3 (Wetaskiwin, Central Alberta) and have had Sweet Cecily growing in my garden for several years. It is thriving and starting to spread. I am not in a unique microclimate, few zone 5 plants survive here. The only challenge was to find a plant. I've given people fresh seeds and they have survived in this area fromm seed so I would encourage you to revise your hadines info for this plant. Thanks, Linacre

   Jun 15 2013 12:00AM

I bought seeds to try a plant in my herb garden and liked it so much I decided to save the seeds (it produces plenty!) elsewhere in my yard. This stuff grows in any soil, and now I have attractive fernlike borders growing where nothing but ugly weeds would grow before. I'm not a fan of anise (smell or flavor) but if you are you'll love the fragrance as well. Such a hearty plant with delicate appearance. They are VERY invasive, with long tap roots so don't plant them anywhere you don't want them spreading (unless you manage to cut the seeds before they ripen).

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Subject : Myrrhis odorata  
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