(Foeniculum vulgare)
Foeniculum vulgare


An erect perennial or biannual up to two metres high with smooth stems, feathery leaves and small yellow flowers in numerous heads. The sub-species vulgare has sweet tasting fruit while the more common sub-species piperitum has acrid tasting fruit.


The sub-species vulgare flowers between April and September and grows in fields and gardens from sea-level to 5,600 ft, perhaps always as an escape from cultivation. The sub-species piperitum flowers from June to October and grows on sandy shores, sand dunes, in dry stony fields, on hillsides, and in dry riverbeds from sea-level to 4,000 ft.

Uses and Properties

The whole plant and especially the seeds are rich in "olio foeniculi", which consists mainly of anethin which imparts an aniseed-like flavour to the plant. The leaves are used to flavour fish sauces, cutting through the oilyness of fish and fresh cut in soups or with beans. The ancient Greek name for the plant means to grow thin and fennel has long been attributed with slimming properties. Its' diuretic action and appetite suppressing properties may explain this. Fennel stimulates breast milk production as it contains galactogogues. It is also used as gripe water for babies. The Romans used fennel to reduce flatulence while Pliny considered it good for the eyesight and an antidote for snake bites. In modern medicine it is used as a digestive tonic, reducing flatulence. It is also used in eye washes and as a diuretic.