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Wild Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Fields, gardens, meadows, roadsides, rocky places, seaside, wasteland.

Yellow, 5 petals
The flowers of wild fennel, known for their delicate beauty, boast a striking appearance with clusters of tiny, yellow blossoms arranged in umbrella-like structures called umbels. These inflorescences, abundant in summer, adorn the tall, feathery stems of the plant, adding a splash of colour to its green foliage. Each individual flower consists of five petals and numerous stamens, attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies with their sweet scent and nectar. As the flowers mature, they give way to small, oblong seeds nestled within distinctive ribbed fruits known as schizocarps. Wild fennel's flowers not only contribute to its aesthetic charm but also play a vital role in the plant's reproductive cycle, ensuring its continued presence in diverse ecosystems across the United Kingdom.
The fruit of wild fennel, recognised for its distinctive appearance, comprises small, elongated seeds encased within slender, ribbed structures known as schizocarps. These schizocarps, initially green and tender, gradually mature into a pale brown colour as the seeds ripen. Each schizocarp splits into two segments upon reaching maturity, releasing the seeds within. Resembling tiny, oblong grains, the seeds possess a subtle aroma and a distinctively warm, anise-like flavour. While the seeds themselves are relatively small, they pack a punch of flavour and aroma, making them a prized culinary ingredient in various dishes and condiments across the United Kingdom.
The leaves of wild fennel exhibit a unique blend of elegance and functionality, characterised by their feathery, finely divided appearance and bright green hue. Arranged alternately along the stems, these delicate leaves are deeply dissected into numerous linear segments, imparting a lacy, fern-like quality to the foliage. Rich in aromatic oils, the leaves emit a distinctive fragrance when crushed, reminiscent of anise or licorice. In addition to their aromatic properties, wild fennel leaves boast culinary versatility, lending their flavourful essence to a variety of dishes, from salads and soups to marinades and sauces. Moreover, these foliage serve as a vital food source for caterpillars of certain butterfly species, contributing to the ecological diversity of natural habitats throughout the United Kingdom.
The fragrance of wild fennel is a quintessential essence of the British countryside, evoking a sense of nostalgia and natural splendour. Distinctive and aromatic, the scent wafts through the air on gentle breezes, carrying hints of aniseed and sweetness. Crushed leaves release a potent aroma, reminiscent of licorice, that lingers delicately in the surroundings. Moreover, the flowers of wild fennel contribute to its captivating fragrance, emitting a subtle sweetness that attracts pollinators and adds to the overall sensory experience. Whether encountered along coastal cliffs or nestled in verdant meadows, the fragrance of wild fennel serves as a testament to the abundance of nature and its enduring allure in the United Kingdom.
Other Names:
Common Fennel.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Foeniculum vulgare, also known as fennel or wild fennel, is a perennial herb in the family Apiaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region but has been naturalized in many other parts of the world.

Fennel has a tall, erect habit and can grow up to 6-8 feet tall. The leaves are feathery and finely divided, and the plant produces yellow flowers in the summer. The seeds, which are produced in the fall, are highly aromatic and are used as a spice. The plant's bulb, stalks, leaves and seeds are also edible. Fennel is widely used in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, the bulb, stalks and leaves as a vegetable while the seeds as a spice. They have a licorice-like taste and are often used in sausages, meat dishes, and breads. Fennel seed and oil are also used in traditional medicine to relieve digestive problems, menstrual cramps and colic in infants. Fennel is also cultivated as an ornamental plant due to its feathery foliage and yellow flowers.

In the wild, fennel can become invasive, particularly in areas with Mediterranean climates. Its ability to reproduce quickly and spread widely can lead to the displacement of native vegetation. To prevent this, it's better to be grown in a garden, and deadhead the flowers to prevent from seeding.

Fennel can also be propagated from seed, but it is recommended to use a clump division method for the better result.


Wild fennel, also known by its scientific name Foeniculum vulgare, is a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean region but has been widely naturalized in other parts of the world. It is a highly versatile plant that has been used for a variety of purposes for centuries, including culinary, medicinal, and aromatic applications. In this blog, we will explore the various aspects of wild fennel, including its history, uses, and benefits.

History and Characteristics of Wild Fennel

Wild fennel has a rich history dating back to ancient times. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used fennel for its medicinal and culinary properties. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that fennel possessed powerful healing properties and considered it to be a symbol of victory and success. In ancient China, fennel was also widely used in traditional medicine.

Wild fennel is a perennial plant that can grow up to six feet tall. It has a feathery, fern-like foliage and yellow flowers that bloom in mid-summer. The plant produces seeds that are oval-shaped and about 0.2 inches long.

Culinary Uses of Wild Fennel

Wild fennel is a highly versatile herb that can be used in a variety of culinary applications. The plant has a distinct anise-like flavor that pairs well with fish, seafood, and poultry dishes. The leaves, seeds, and stems of the plant can all be used in cooking.

The leaves of wild fennel can be used in salads or as a garnish. The stems can be sautéed or grilled and used as a side dish. The seeds of the plant can be dried and used as a spice, and are often found in sausages, bread, and other baked goods. In Italian cuisine, wild fennel is a key ingredient in many dishes, including the popular sausage and broccoli rabe pasta dish, orecchiette con le cime di rapa.

Medicinal Uses of Wild Fennel

Wild fennel has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. The plant contains several compounds, including anethole, fenchone, and estragole, which are believed to possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer properties.

One of the most well-known medicinal uses of wild fennel is as a digestive aid. The plant is believed to help relieve symptoms of bloating, gas, and indigestion. It is also used to help stimulate appetite and aid in the absorption of nutrients.

In traditional medicine, wild fennel has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory infections, menstrual cramps, and colic. The plant is also believed to possess diuretic properties and may help to reduce water retention.

Aromatic Properties of Wild Fennel

Wild fennel is also highly valued for its aromatic properties. The plant is used in aromatherapy to help relieve stress and anxiety. The essential oil of wild fennel is believed to possess calming and soothing properties and may help to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Wild fennel is a highly versatile plant that has been used for centuries for its culinary, medicinal, and aromatic properties. The plant has a rich history and is still widely used today in traditional medicine and cuisine. Whether you are looking to add flavor to your cooking, improve your digestion, or promote relaxation, wild fennel is a plant that is definitely worth exploring.

Other Health Benefits

In addition to the uses mentioned above, wild fennel has a few other interesting applications. Here are a few additional benefits of wild fennel:

  • Antioxidant properties: Wild fennel contains antioxidants, which can help to protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation has been linked to a variety of health problems. Wild fennel contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body.

  • Respiratory health: Wild fennel has been used for centuries to treat respiratory problems, such as coughs and bronchitis. The plant is believed to have expectorant properties, which means it can help to loosen mucus and phlegm in the lungs, making it easier to cough up.

  • Menstrual health: Wild fennel is often used to help relieve menstrual cramps and other symptoms associated with menstruation. The plant is believed to have antispasmodic properties, which can help to relax the muscles in the uterus and relieve cramping.

Overall, wild fennel is a plant with a variety of potential benefits for your health and well-being. Whether you are looking to improve your digestion, reduce inflammation, or simply add some flavor to your cooking, wild fennel is definitely worth exploring. As with any herbal remedy, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before using wild fennel for medicinal purposes.

Some More Facts about Wild Fennel

Here are a few more interesting facts about wild fennel:

  • Wild fennel is an important plant in the ecology of many regions. It provides food and habitat for a wide variety of insects and animals, including bees, butterflies, and birds.

  • Wild fennel is a popular ingredient in traditional liqueurs, such as absinthe and ouzo. These liqueurs are made by steeping fennel seeds in alcohol and adding other herbs and flavorings.

  • Wild fennel is often confused with poison hemlock, a highly toxic plant. While the two plants look similar, there are several key differences. Poison hemlock has smooth, hairless stems and leaves, while wild fennel has a fuzzy texture. Additionally, the smell of wild fennel is similar to anise, while poison hemlock has a foul, musty odor.

  • Wild fennel is an easy plant to grow, and can be grown in a variety of climates. The plant prefers well-draining soil and full sun, and can be propagated by seeds or cuttings.

  • In traditional medicine, wild fennel has been used to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. The plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can help to soothe and heal the skin.

  • Wild fennel is sometimes used as a natural insect repellent. The plant contains compounds that are thought to repel insects, such as mosquitoes and flies. Some people even plant wild fennel in their gardens to help keep pests at bay.

  • Wild fennel is a versatile herb that can be used in many different types of cuisine. It is commonly used in Mediterranean cooking, where it is used to flavor fish, vegetables, and meat dishes. It can also be used to make tea, and is sometimes used as a spice in baked goods.

  • The essential oil of wild fennel is sometimes used in aromatherapy. The oil is believed to have a calming effect on the nervous system, and is sometimes used to treat anxiety and depression.

  • Overall, wild fennel is a fascinating plant with a rich history and a wide range of uses. Whether you are interested in its culinary uses, its medicinal properties, or its cultural significance, wild fennel is a plant that is definitely worth exploring.

  • Wild fennel has been used in traditional medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments, including digestive problems, menstrual cramps, and respiratory issues. The plant is believed to have a range of medicinal properties, including antispasmodic, carminative, and diuretic properties.

  • In ancient times, wild fennel was believed to have magical properties. It was sometimes used in rituals to ward off evil spirits or to promote fertility.

  • Wild fennel is sometimes used in natural skincare products. The plant is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to soothe and protect the skin.

  • In some cultures, wild fennel is considered a symbol of longevity and good luck. It is sometimes given as a gift to celebrate important life events, such as weddings and births.


Wild Fennel filmed at Marshside in Southport, Lancashire on the 15th July 2023.


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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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