Foeniculum vulgare. Fennel.
Nat. Ord. — Apiaceae, or Umbelliferae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Digynia.
Description. — Foeniculum Vulgare, or Common Fennel, has a biennial or perennial tapering root, and an annual, erect, solid, round, striated, smooth, leafy, copiously branched stem, growing from three to five feet in bight. The leaves are alternate at the joints of the stem, upon broad membranous striated sheaths, and are triply pinnate ; the leaflets are long, linear, acute, smooth, more or less drooping, deep green. The flowers are in large, flat, terminal umbels, with from thirteen to twenty rays ; the partial rays more slender, short, and very unequal. Bracts or involucres wanting. The corolla consists of five petals, of a golden yellow color, which are obovate, with a broad, obtuse, indexed point. Calyx none. Styles very short, with a large, ovate, pale-yellow base. Fruit ovate, not quite two lines long, and about a line in breadth, pale bright brown, smooth ; ridges sharp, with but little space between each, the lateral ones rather the broadest; terminated by a permanent conical disk. Fennel is a native of Europe, growing wild upon sandy and chalky ground, and flowering in July.
Foeniculum Officinale, or Sweet Fennel, has a perennial, fusiform and whitish root, with a solid, jointed, striated, shining, deep-glaucous-green stem. The leaves are shorter, and the leaflets less elongated than in the preceding species; the fruit is likewise twice as long, a little curved, and of a less dark color, with prominent ridges, and a persistent peduncle. It is a native of the South of Europe, but is naturalized in this country, and is sweeter and more aromatic than F. Vulgare.
Foeniculum Dulce, or Sweet Fennel, and sometimes confounded with the F. Officinale, very much resembles the F. Vulgare, but differs in being a much smaller plant, only about a foot high, — in having its stem somewhat compressed at the base — its radical leaves somewhat distichous, and in having only six or eight rays, instead of thirteen or twenty, as in the common fennel. The fruit likewise varies considerably, being narrow, oblong, three lines long, pale-dull-brown, smooth ; ridges sharpish, with a space between each for a convex line indicating the vittae, the lateral ones rather the broadest. This is also a native of southern Europe, and is cultivated largely in Italy and Sicily, for the sake of the shoots, which are eaten raw, or boiled as pot-herbs.
These plants were formerly included in the genus Anethum of Linnaeus, but were separated from it by Gaertner and De Candolle, on account of the difference of the seed. Authors have not settled the question as to the officinal species, the botanical history of which is still a matter of confusion and indefiniteness.
History. — The seeds or half fruits of these varieties, do not differ materially in aromatic properties ; they have a fragrant odor, and a warm, sweet, aromatic taste. There are three kinds in commerce; 1st, ovoid, glabrous, of a dull green, marked with lines, of which two are more prominent than the others — these are the product of F . Vulgare. 2d. Long, somewhat curved, of a brighter green, pedicel often adhering to them, and very aromatic, the product of F. Officinale. 3d. Much broader and ovoid, ribs strongly marked, from the F. Dulce. They impart their virtues to hot water, but more abundantly to alcohol. They contain volatile oil, which may be obtained by distillation with water, and likewise a large proportion of fixed oil.
Properties and Uses. — Carminative and stimulant. Used in flatulent colic, and as a corrigent of other less pleasant medicines. Dose of powdered seeds, from ten to thirty grains.
Off. Prep. — Aqua Foeniculi.