Cicely /sɪsli/ or sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the celery family Apiaceae. It is one of two accepted species in the genus Myrrhis.
The genus name Myrrhis derives from the Greek word myrrhis [μρρί], an aromatic oil from Asia with a characteristic smell. The Latin species name odorata means scented.
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. The fruits are slender, 15-25 mm long and 3-4 mm broad.
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.
In fertile soils it grows readily from seed, and may be increased by division in spring or autumn.
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.
Like its relatives anise, fennel, and caraway, it can also be used to flavour akvavit. Its essential oils are dominated by anethole.