Flowers of Myrrhis odorata at the Giardino Botanico Alpino Chanousia
Scientific classification Edit this classification
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

Myrrhis odorata is a tall herbaceous perennial plant growing to 2 metres (6 ft 7 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 are also edible. It has a history of use as a medicinal herb.[5]

Like its relatives anise, fennel, and caraway, it can 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 4 July 2021
  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 4 July 2021
  5. ^ a b c Grieve, Maud. "Cicely, Sweet". A Modern Herbal. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  6. ^ "Cicely (Myrrhis odorata [L.] Scop.)". Germot Katzers Spice Pages. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  7. ^ "Myrrhis odorata - (L.)Scop". Plants for a future. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  8. ^ Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 450. ISBN 9780521707725.
  9. ^ "Myrrhis odorata (L.) Scop. - Sweet Cicely - Umbelliferae / Apiaceae". Flora of Northern Ireland. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  10. ^ a b "Sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata (L.) Scop". Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  11. ^ "Myrris odorata, native & introduced". Archived from the original on 23 February 2002. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  12. ^ "Myrrhis odorata". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  13. ^ "The Gourmet Food & Cooking Resource". Archived from the original on 6 February 2023. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  14. ^ Wild Flower Finder