Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)

Botanical Name:Myrrhis odorata
Family:    Apiaceae
Genus:    Myrrhis
Species: M. odorata
Kingdom:Plantae
Order:    Apiales

Common Names: Cicely or Sweet Cicely,Myrhh

Habitat :Cicely is native to mountains of southern and central Europe, introduced and naturalized elsewhere in cultivated areas. I grows on woodland margins, roadside verges, river banks and grassland.

Description:
Cicely is an herbaceous perennial plant  growing to 2 m [6 ft 6 in] tall, depending on circumstances. The leaves are 2-4-pinnate, finely divided, feathery, up to 50 cm long, with whitish patches near the rachis. The plant is softly hairy and smells strongly of aniseed when crushed. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles.The plant is self-fertile. The flowers are white, about 2–4 mm across, produced in large umbels. The fruits are slender, 15–25 mm long and 3–4 mm broad.
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Cultivation: 
Prefers a moist rich soil in a shady position. Thrives in all soils in sun or shade. This species is hardy to about -15°c according to one report whilst another says that it is hardy to at least -20°c. Plants often self-sow freely. 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. A good bee plant.

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Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe since stored seed is difficult to germinate. 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.

Edible Uses:
Leaves – raw or cooked. Excellent raw, the leaves have a delicious sweet aniseed flavour and are liked by the majority of people who try them. They are also used as a flavouring for vegetables, and are an important ingredient of the herb mix ‘bouquet garni’. They can be cooked with tart fruits in order to reduce their acidity. The plant produces fresh leaves from late winter to early the following winter. The leaves can also be dried for later use. 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. Root – raw or cooked. A similar flavour to the leaves. So long as it is not too old, the root can be boiled and mixed with other vegetables or added to salads. Seed – raw or cooked. An aniseed flavour, it is usually used as a flavouring but can also be eaten raw whilst it is still green and before the fibrous coat has formed. It makes an excellent mouth freshener. A tea is made from the leaves.

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

Other Uses:
The leaves and the seed make good polishes for wood. 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, giving a lovely glossy finish and an aromatic smell.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Myrrhis+odorata
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicely

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