This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
To see the Fennel in its native haunts we must seek the coast where there are cliffs, up whose face we shall find its tall, stout, jointed stems and umbellate flowers. In this plant we make acquaintance with an important Natural Order, the Umbelliferae, which includes such useful plants as Celery, Parsley, Carrot, Parsnip, Asafoetida, Anise, Dill, Hemlock, etc. The prevailing characteristics of this order are: The stems are hollow; the leaves, with few exceptions, are divided; the leafstalk at its base expands and forms a sheath to the stem; the flowers borne on long stalks arranged like the ribs of an umbrella; the flowers five-parted, the ovary below the petals and stamens, and the fruit what is known as a cremocarp.
Fennel grows to a height of three or four feet, with a round and tubular, but almost solid stem, quite solid at the joints, and grooved. The leaves are so much divided that the divisions are merely many green threads. The flowers are individually minute, the petals yellow, but to give them greater prominence they are gathered into umbels, and these are arranged in umbels of umbels, or what botanists would term compound umbels.
The ovary consists of two carpels placed face to face, in each of which is a single seed suspended like a nut in its shell (pericarp). Each of the carpels with its ripe seed is termed a mericarp, and the entire fruit is a cremocarp. It is hard on the reader to fling all these technical terms at him at once, but in truth there is no help for it. If he wishes to become acquainted with the extensive order of Umbelliferous plants he must constantly use these terms, for the fruits play an important part in distinguishing umbellifers of various genera.
- Umbelliferae. -