by Janaki, Blake, Liz and Ben
Sweet Fennel is in the carrot family. It is also sometimes called anise. It is a strong plant with a sturdy, thick stem. It is dark green, but when it is young and immature, it is light green and the leaves are soft and feathery. Fennel has little yellow flowers that grow out in bunches. Fennel seeds are dark brown with black stripes in the middle and when you bite one it tastes like licorice. Fennel grows in a feather duster-likeway in the spring. In the summer the plant shoots up tall streaked branches with little bouquets of yellow flowers on the ends. The bouquets look like little yellow umbrellas. In the fall the branches turn into a brown skeleton and dies. Sweet Fennel grows on the mountains, roadsides, and the coast.This plant blooms from May to September. It ranges in height from 3 to 7 feet high.
Fennel is a non-native plant and it grows so abundantly that it is invading the sage scrub community and is squeezing out the native plants that live there. It naturally grows in the Mediterranean part of the world. Fennel was brought to the American continent by the Spanish who spread it on the floors of the missions and stomped on it so it gave the mission a sweet smell. Leaves of Fennel can be cooked as a vegetable dish or used in sauces. Sweet Fennel looks like Poison Hemlock except Sweet Fennel has a smell like licorice and it doesn't have purple spots. Poison Hemlock has purple spots on its stems and doesn't have a sweet smell. It is very important not to confuse the two.