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Myrrhis odorata (L) Scop.            Sweet Cicely


Myrrhis : from Greek, myrra (myrrh), from perfume.

odorata :

Cicely  : from Greek, seseli. Dioscorides.

OTHER NAMES : British myrrh, sweet chervil, great chervil, smooth cicely, sweet fern,
sweet humlock, sheperd’s needle. Anise, (Dur). Wilanise, annaseed, myrrh, (Cumb).
Cow—weed, sweet cis, (Yks). Myrrh, (Aberdeen). Roman plant, switch, (Lancs). Sweet
bracken, (Lakes). Sweet— thumlick, (Berw). Sweet withy, (IoW). Sweets, (N Eng).
Cerfeuil d’Espagne, (France). Mirride odorosa, (Italy). Perifolio, (Spain). Englisher/Spanischer
kerbie, (Germany). Roomse kervel, (Dutch). Sodskaerm, (Danish).

BSBI Picture Link to Myrrhis odorata


TYPE : stout erect puberulent bright green perennial, 60—200cm. Hs.
AROMA : fruit & leaves strongly of aniseed/clove if crushed. Taste sugary.
ROOTS : large. fleshy, sweet, aromatic. SHOOTS : triangular lacey         
  leaves with a simple wing coming up from each side of its root.  
UMBELS : compound. Gracefull heads. 1—5 cm diam, terminal, rays 5—10,
hairy. Terminal umbel with male and hermaphrodite flowers, stout rays, lateral
with male only with slender rays.
LEAVES : up to 30cm. 2—3 pinnate, gale beneath, usually with whitish markings, segments
oblong—ovate, pinnatisect. The lobes coarsely serrate,10—30rnm. Petioles of stem leaves
sheathing. Leafless in winter. Cotyledons tapered at base, without a petiole.
BRACTS : absent. Bracteoles 5, lancolate—aristate, with long slender apex, whitish.
FLOWERS: white, petals unequal, outer radiating. Styles form stylopodium. Polin. by bees. Fl. 5—7.
FRUIT : 15—25mm linear—oblong, short beak, sharply angled with short forward pointing
bristles on the angles, dark brown, mature shiny. Commisure broad, carpophore present.
Vittae slender. Pedicels 5mm, sparsley hairy. Styles slender, diver ging, much > than
stylopodium. Patent or recurved in fruit. Stigma capitate. 2n=22.

HABITAT : damp pastures, meadows, roadsides, wood margins, scrub,
streamsides in uplands & mountains.

DISTRIBUTION : intro. Commonest spring flrng Umbellifer in N. Britain from Glam to Licoln.
Rare in S. Most common at Selattyn roadside verges. Rare over Offas Dyke in England,
a cultural boundary. Outside doors of Cregneash Manx museum, Isle Of Man. Common
in Pyreness, Alps, Appenines in France. Naturalised in Germany. Also in W. part of Balklans.
BSBI Distribution Map for Myrrhis odorata


PARTS : leaves, roots, seeds.
EFFECT : expectorant, benefits digestion.
APPLICATION : root decoction for coughs, minor digestive complaints, anaemia.


Bites of Viper & rabid dogs : decoction of roots. Used by Celts for the plague.

Culpepper : “Spoonful of unbruised seeds as remedy for rheumatism.”

Stomachic, carminative, expectorant for coughs, flatulence, gentle stimulation for debilitated
stomachs, stimulant, tonic, fresh root on its own or infusion in brandy or water. Tonic valuable
for 15—18 year old girls. Roots antiseptic. Diuretic, pleurisy, aphrodisiac: Distilled water.
Consumption : decoction of roots in wine morning and evening, 4-8 oz. Green wounds,
stinking ulcers. pain of gout: balsam + ointment.


Tastes of sugar. Leaves in salads, sweet dishes, yoghurt, whipped cream, flavouring Chartreuse
liquors. Roots, not too old, are boiled & mixed with other veg, added to salads or sprinkled on trifles
& sugared strawberries. Seeds in salads. Chopped fresh herb added as sweetener to dishes &
preserves based on sour tasting fruits. Used to freshen meat in Medieval times.

Gerard " Boil roots & eat with oil & vinegar, as a pickmeup for elderly people."


Westmorland : clove scented seeds ground up & mixed with wax used as a polish for
oak furniture & panels, leaves an agreeable smell.


Grown in S/Wales graveyards as memory of sweetness.
Believed to bloom on xmas eve.
Plant of Jupiter.

EXTERNAL LINKS FOR Myrrhis odorata

These links to trusted websites and institutions may provide in depth or additional information regards cultivation, chemistry, edibility, images etc. for the species. Links last updated Aug 2012.

Wikipedia (EU)    Plants For a Future (UK)    NatureGate (FIN)
Bio Info (UK)     Bio Images (UK)     APHOTOFLORA Images (UK)
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages (AUSTRIA)
Rowan Remedies UK    A Modern Herbal. M. Grieve (UK)
    Medicinal Herb Info (USA)

'Online Guide To Umbelliferae Of The British Isles' Compiled By J.M.Burton 2002