Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sweet Cicely - Myrrhis odorata

Meet my Sweet Cicely!
I bought a tiny plant from the Scarborough Horticultural Society about 5 or 6 years ago and planted it into my garden. It was only about 3 inches high at that time and I had no idea what it was. The following year it grew to a height of over 3 feet! It didn't flower the first year, so I wonder if it is a biennial, but according to every source I have read it seems to be a herbaceous perennial. After that year, my Sweet Cicely keeps getting bigger and the number of flower stems increase. This is what it looks like right now. It also seeds itself into other parts of my garden, but it is not invasive. Any seedlings can be dug up and transplanted.

Sweet Cicely has triangular-shaped feathery leaves. They add a graceful lacy look to the garden and can grow to a foot or larger. Their light green colour and shape are a good contrast to other foliage. They also taste and smell like licorice or anise. The flowers are white and are borne in large umbrels above the plant. The seeds are dark in colour when ripe and resemble fennel and caraway.

All parts of this plant are edible. It has been used in many ways. The seeds have been pounded and used as a furniture and floor polish. All parts of the plant have been used in medicine. The roots have been boiled and used as a remedy for stomach disorders. The plant is currently being studied for as an artificial sweetener for diabetics. The roots have been used as an antiseptic.

In the kitchen, the leaves have been used in salads, soups, stews and as a sweetener for desserts. The roots can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable or chopped and added cold to salads. Unripe seeds can also be added to salads.

I have never had the courage to use this herb for anything other than a garden plant, but I may try a recipe or two this summer. There are many on the Internet. Having said all of this, I want to warn you that there are several other plants that look very similar to Sweet Cicely, but are highly poisonous. Just a precaution!

Family: Apiaceae. Genus: Myrrhis. Species: M. odorata
Common Name: Sweet Cicely


  1. I love seeing the different plants that you are able to grow. Sweet Cicely leaves looks like ferns I see in shade gardens down here in Oklahoma, but I've never seen one with blooms. Beautiful... thank you.


  2. Very educational. I did not realize that this plant was edable.

  3. I love the look of your Sweet Cicely, Hetty! I wonder how it would get along with my hostas,lol.
    Thank you for sharing this bit of info! Nice blog :o)

    Erynne in Ontario