Osmorrhisa, from osme, odor, and rhiza, root; the roots have a pleasant odor.
Perennial. In moist, rich woodlands. Nova Scotia to Minnesota and Dakota, south to Virginia and Tennessee. Abundant in northern Ohio. April, May.
Fleshy, aromatic, anise-scented.
Smooth or slightly hairy, one to three feet high; downy when young, later nearly smooth; often stained a dull purplish red.
Basal and lower stem-leaves compounded in threes; leaflets ovate or oblong, variously cut and toothed; veins prominent; dull green above, shining beneath.
Small, white, borne in compound umbels, which are opposite the leaves; these umbels have about four rays. Involucre of three or four narrow bracts. In-volucels of about five lanceolate bracts. Umbellets three to six-flowered.
Minute, grown fast to ovary, without a border.
Petals five, oblong, point incurved.
Five, inserted with the petals on the disk which crowns the ovary.
Of two carpels; styles two.
Dark green or blackish, dry, bristly, slender, narrow below, rounded and cleft at summit.
Pollinated by flies and bees. Some flowers are perfect, others staminate. In the perfect flowers the anthers mature before the stigmas.
The delicate fern-like leaves of the Sweet Cicely in early spring carpet the forest floor in open sunny woodlands. The thick anise-scented roots are attractive to children and to rabbits, but the roots of so many of the wild Umbellifera are poisonous and children should be warned to eat none of them. The flowering umbel is small and inconspicuous, there is no appearance of a flat-topped cluster, such as usually distinguishes the family of Umbellif-era. The chief beauty of the plant lies in the foliage, which, abundant in April, in May often overshadows other plants and virtually covers the forest floor.
The tiny blossom has five white petals and a very short style, which gives the plant its specific name. This character is best noted by means of a lens.
The seeds are long and slender, armed with short bristles, which enable them to cling to the passerby and so ride with two legs or four to a home.
Downy Sweet Cicely. Osmorrhiza brevistylis