Apiaceae - Myrrhis odorata.JPG
Flowers of Myrrhis odorata at the Giardino Botanico Alpino Chanousia
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Subfamily: Apioideae
Tribe: Scandiceae
Subtribe: Scandicinae
Genus: Myrrhis
M. odorata
Binomial name
Myrrhis odorata
  • Chaerophyllum odoratum (L.) Crantz
  • Lindera odorata (L.) Asch.
  • Myrrhis brevipedunculata Hoffm.
  • Myrrhis iberica Hoffm.
  • Myrrhis sulcata Lag.
  • Scandix odorata L.
  • Selinum myrrhis E.H.L.Krause

Myrrhis odorata, with common names cicely (/ˈsɪsəli/ SISS-ə-lee), sweet cicely,[2] myrrh, garden myrrh, and sweet chervil,[3] is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the celery family Apiaceae. It is the only species in the genus Myrrhis.[4]


The genus name Myrrhis derives from the Greek word myrrhis [μυρρίς], an aromatic oil from Asia. The Latin species name odorata means scented.[5][6]


Illustration of Myrrhis odorata
Illustration of Myrrhis odorata

Myrrhis odorata is a tall herbaceous perennial plant growing to 2 m [6 ft 6 in] tall, depending on circumstances. The leaves are fern-like, 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. The flowers are creamy-white, about 2–4 mm across, produced in large umbels. The flowering period extends from May to June.[7] The fruits are slender, dark brown, 15–25 mm long and 3–4 mm broad.[8][9]

Distribution and habitat

Myrrhis odorata is native to mountains of southern and central Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus. It has been introduced and naturalized elsewhere in cultivated areas, woodland margins, roadside verges, river banks and grassland.[5][10][11] In the British Isles it is most abundant in northern England and eastern Scotland.[10]

Cultivation and uses

In fertile soils it grows readily from seed, and may be increased by division in spring or autumn.[12]

Its leaves are sometimes used as a herb, either raw or cooked, with a rather strong taste reminiscent of anise. The roots and seeds also are edible. Additionally, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb.[5]

Like its relatives anise, fennel, and caraway, it can also be used to flavour akvavit.[13] Its essential oils are dominated by anethole.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Myrrhis odorata (L.) Scop.", Plants of the World Online, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2021-07-04
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cicely" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 353.
  3. ^ USDA GRIN Taxonomy, retrieved 9 April 2017
  4. ^ "Myrrhis Mill.", Plants of the World Online, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2021-07-04
  5. ^ a b c M. Grieve A Modern Herbal
  6. ^ Germot Katzers Spice Pages
  7. ^ Plants for a future
  8. ^ Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 450. ISBN 9780521707725.
  9. ^ Flora of Northern Ireland
  10. ^ a b "Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora". Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  11. ^ Linnnaeus
  12. ^ Royal Horticultural Society
  13. ^ The Gourmet Food & Cooking Resource
  14. ^ Wild Flower Finder