Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel has made a previous appearance on Botany Photo of the Day (see Foeniculum vulgare and Rhagonycha fulva), with an entry focused on a beetle pollinator that captured my attention. The plants in the Garden caught my eye again last week when I noticed the stems forming a stained-glass pattern.

It’s timely to feature this species, given its association with an Olympics/Paralympics sport: the marathon. Quoting Wikipedia’s entry on fennel: “The Greek name for fennel is marathos (μάραθος) and the place of the famous battle of Marathon and the subsequent sports event Marathon (Μαραθών), literally means a plain with fennels”. The reference I turn to for spices and herbs, Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages, goes into far greater detail on the etymology of this ancient spice: Foeniculum vulgare.

Fennel is native to Mediterranean Europe, Africa and Asia, then east to Pakistan. However, it has naturalized worldwide in areas with similar climates or even mild temperate regions. Both the Wikipedia and Katzer’s Spice Page links above have extensive details about its culinary and/or medicinal uses.

Foeniculum vulgare

9 responses to “Foeniculum vulgare”

  1. Katherine

    I grow regular culinary fennel for the bulbs during our San Francisco winter-spring growing season, but I grow bronze fennels over the summer (cut them down in the winter, let them come up from the roots next spring). They are magnets for lady beetles, who love them for laying their eggs. I always get a good crop of ladybug larvae in the flowers/seedheads that mature into beetles. Growing the fennel to act as a ladybug nursery is key in my war against aphids. Here’s to more fennel!

  2. Souren

    Brilliant Katherine
    Always so good to hear really useful commentary –
    Despite our rather different climates (SF vs Hampshire, UK; one might think they have some similarities (cf Mark Twain) but I think they are outweighed by the differences)
    Thank you BPotD as always

  3. Melissa in South Carolina

    Agreed, Souren and Katherine. I always find lots of “news I can use” in the write-ups and commentaries. Plus we get gorgeous photography to enjoy and share. Can’t go wrong. “Marathon” Who knew?

  4. Mandy Macdonald

    Marathon — who knew, indeed? I didn’t, and i’m a classicist by education. We have bronze fennel in the garden (in Aberdeen), and though i haven’t noticed it attracting ladybirds, which have been very rare here this year, some small bird or other likes the seeds — as do we, for cooking with fish or cabbage (and the leaves for wrapping round fish to be baked in foil).

  5. Sallee

    Here in Maryland USA bronze fennel is a host plant for the black swallow tail butterfly’s handsomely striped caterpillar. The plant winters over, regrowing after being cut down, and self sows with some enthusiasm. I also use the fronds and seeds in cooking.

  6. Albertine Ellis

    The wild fennel mentioned by Gernot Katzer as a possible origin of the name Marathon, might have been the Giant Fennel (Ferula communis) which is very common in Greece.

  7. Anna

    Plus – this is a really fabulous photo – what wonderful geometry – thanks for brightening up the day!

  8. Peony Fan

    This photo is pure poetry!


    How can I grow fennel that will produce a good size bulb before going to seeds ???

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