Habitat : Osmorhiza longistylis is native to Eastern N. America – Nova Scotia to Ontario, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas and Colorado. It grows in rich, often alluvial woods and thickets. Woods, often along the sides of streams in Texas.
Osmorhiza longistylis is a herbaceous perennial plant is about 1.2 m (4ft) ‘ tall, branching occasionally. The stems are light green to reddish purple, terete, and glabrous (var. longistylis) to hairy (var. villicaulis). The alternate leaves are ternately compound; the lower compound leaves are up to 9″ long and 9″ across, while the upper compound leaves are much smaller in size. Each compound leaf is divided into 3 compound leaflets; the terminal compound leaflet is the largest. Each compound leaflet is further divided into 3 subleaflets; the terminal subleaflet is the largest, sometimes appearing to be divided into 3 even smaller subleaflets. The subleaflets are 1-4″ long, ½-1½” across, and lanceolate to oval-ovate shape in shape; their margins are coarsely serrated-crenate or shallowly cleft. The upper subleaflet surface is yellowish green to green and nearly glabrous (var. longistylis) to moderately covered with appressed hairs (var. villicaulis).
The petioles of compound leaves are light green to reddish purple and up to 6″ in length. The petiolules of leaflets are light green to reddish green and up to 2″ long, while those of subleaflets are nearly sessile to ¼” (6 mm.) long. The foliage of this plant releases a mild anise fragrance when it is rubbed. The upper stems terminate in compound umbels of white flowers about 1½-3″ across. There are about 3-6 umbellets per compound umbel on rays (floral stalks) up to 2″ long. An umbellet has 7-16 flowers that are clustered together on rays (floral stalklets) up to ¼” (6 mm.) long. Each flower (about 3 mm. across) has 5 white petals with incurved tips, 5 white stamens, a pistil with a divided white style (stylopodium), and an insignificant calyx that is light green. At the base of each compound umbel, there are several linear-lanceolate bracts with ciliate margins; they are up to 8 mm. in length. At the base of each umbellet, there are several linear-lanceolate bractlets with ciliate margins; they are also up to 8 mm. in length.
The blooming period occurs during the late spring or early summer, lasting about 2-3 weeks. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by 2-seeded fruits (schizocarps). While these fruits are still immature, the persistent divided style is 2.0-3.5 mm. in length (it is smaller than this when the flowers are still in bloom). The small seeds are narrowly ellipsoid-oblanceoloid, 5-ribbed, and slightly bristly along their ribs. The root system consists of a cluster of fleshy roots with a strong anise fragrance.
Succeeds in any deep moisture-retentive soil in sun or dappled shade. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. Well suited to naturalistic plantings in a woodland or wild garden. A sweetly aromatic plant.
Seed – we have no information on this species but suggest sowing the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe if this is possible, otherwise sow it in early spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
Root – raw or cooked. Very sweet, aromatic and fleshy. A spicy flavour similar to anise, the roots are chewed, made into a tea or used as a flavouring. Leaves and young shoots – raw. An anise flavour, they are added to salads. The green seeds have an anise flavour and are used as a flavouring in salads, the dry seeds are added to cakes etc.
Osmorhiza longistylis was used extensively by Native American Indian tribes to treat digestive disorders and as an antiseptic wash for a range of problems. Sweet Cicely is medicinal and edible, the root being the strongest for use in alternative medicine it is antiseptic, aromatic, febrifuge, oxytocic, pectoral, stomachic, carminative, tonic, ophthalmic, and expectorant. Medicinal tea made from the root is a very good digestive aid and is a gentle stimulant for debilitated stomachs. A weak herb tea is used to bath sore eyes. A strong infusion has been used to induce labor in a pregnant woman and to treat fevers, indigestion, flatulence, stomach aches. The crushed root is an effective antiseptic poultice for the treatment of boils and wounds. A medicinal cough syrup can be made of the fresh juice and honey, it is very effective and quite tasty, children take it readily.
Folklore: A decoction of the herb was used as nostril wash to increase dog’s sense of smell. A valuable tonic for girls from 15 to 18 years of age, according to an old herbal. The aromatic scent is said to be an aphrodisiac, used as a love medicine.
In use it should not be confused with species of poison hemlock, water hemlock, or baneberry.
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.