FENNEL, Foeniculum vulgare (also known as F. capillaceum), a perennial plant of the natural order Umbelliferae, from 2 to 3 or (when cultivated) 4 ft. in height, having leaves three or four times pinnate, with numerous linear or awl-shaped segments, and glaucous compound umbels of about 15 or 20 rays, with no involucres, and small yellow flowers, the petals incurved at the tip. The fruit is laterally compressed, five-ridged, and has a large single resin-canal or "vitta" under each furrow. The plant appears to be of south European origin, but is now met with in various parts of Britain and the rest of temperate Europe, and in the west of Asia. The dried fruits of cultivated plants from Malta have an aromatic taste and odour, and are used for the preparation of fennel water, valued for its carminative properties. It is given in doses of 1 to 2 oz., the active principle being a volatile oil which is probably the same as oil of anise. The shoots of fennel are eaten blanched, and the seeds are used for flavouring. The fennel seeds of commerce are of several sorts. Sweet or Roman fennel seeds are the produce of a tall perennial plant, with umbels of 25-30 rays, which is cultivated near Nismes in the south of France; they are elliptical and arched in form, about 2/5 in. long and a quarter as broad, and are smooth externally, and of a colour approaching a pale green. Shorter and straighter fruits are obtained from the annual variety of F. vulgare known as F. Panmorium (Panmuhuri) or Indian fennel, and are employed in India in curries, and for medicinal purposes. Other kinds are the German or Saxon fruits, brownish-green in colour, and between 1/5 and in. in length, and the broader but smaller fruits of the wild or bitter fennel of the south of France. A variety of fennel, F. dulce, having the stem compressed at the base, and the umbel 6-8 rayed, is grown in kitchen-gardens for the sake of its leaves.
Giant fennel is the name applied to the plant Ferula communis, a member of the same natural order, and a fine herbaceous plant, native in the Mediterranean region, where the pith of the stem is used as tinder. Hog's or sow fennel is the species Peucedanum officinale, another member of the Umbelliferae.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)