Foeniculum vulgare - P. Mill.
Sweet Fennel
Other Common Names: sweet fennel
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Foeniculum vulgare P. Mill. (TSN 29509)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.159195
Element Code: PDAPI12010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Carrot Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Apiales Apiaceae Foeniculum
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Foeniculum vulgare
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Reviewed: 22Mar1994
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Reasons: Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region; widely cultivated and naturalized in other temperate areas, including the United States.
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (12Oct2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arizona (SNA), California (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA)
Canada British Columbia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Quebec (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Foeniculum vulgare is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region (Parsons 1973). It has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes at least since Roman times (Garland 1979). It has become naturalized in temperate areas around the world, especially in limey soil near the sea (Garland 1979). It escaped cultivation in the early history of the United States and is now a weed of waste places, roadsides, riverbanks, and other nonagricultural situations (Parsons 1973). Little is known about its introduction to California, where it has become quite abundant. It is especially well established in the central and southern areas of the state (Robbins et al. 1941).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Foeniculum vulgare is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region (Parsons 1973). It has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes at least since Roman times (Garland 1979). It has become naturalized in temperate areas around the world, especially in limey soil near the sea (Garland 1979). It escaped cultivation in the early history of the United States and is now a weed of waste places, roadsides, riverbanks, and other nonagricultural situations (Parsons 1973). Little is known about its introduction to California, where it has become quite abundant. It is especially well established in the central and southern areas of the state (Robbins et al. 1941).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZexotic, CAexotic, CTexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, ILexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MOexotic, NCexotic, NEexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, WAexotic, WVexotic
Canada BCexotic, ONexotic, QCexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Foeniculum vulgare is a perennial herb, 1 to 2 m tall with strong anise-like odor.
Technical Description: The following description of Foeniculum vulgare is adapted from Munz and Keck (1973) and Parsons (1973).

Foeniculum vulgare is a member of the Parsley Family (Umbelliferae= Apiaceae) with strong anise-like odor. It is an erect, caulescent, perennial herb, 1 to 2 m tall. The root is a stout branched taproot. The stem is filled with a white spongy pith. Its branching stems are marked with fine longitudinal furrows. It is conspicuously jointed at the nodes. The leaves are pinnately decompound into filiform divisions 4-40 mm long. The leaf stalks possess stem-clasping sheaths. The leaf blades are ovate to deltoid in outline and are approximately 3 dm long. The flowers of the large compound umbels are yellow and terminal. There are 15-40 rays per flower that average a length of 1-6 cm. They have neither involucels nor involucres. The grey fruits are oblong, slightly flattened laterally, glabrous, 3.5-4 mm long, and the ribs are acute. The seeds are formed in pairs and are aromatic.

Diagnostic Characteristics: In California, fennel can be distinguished from other members of the Umbelliferae by its strong anise-like odor. Seedlings have strap-shaped cotyledons that are several times longer than wide. The first and subsequent leaves are pinnately compound into filiform divisions, as are the adult leaves.
Reproduction Comments: Foeniculum vulgare has the capacity to reproduce from both its crown and its seeds. "The seeds germinate at almost any time of the year, but plants generally do not flower until 18 months to 2 years. Once a plant is established, flowering stems are produced from the perennial crown each spring. Flowering commences in May and may continue into September. Seeds are produced during the summer and autumn, and the flowering stems die back during winter to be replaced by new growth in late winter. Some stems stay alive towards the base and produce new leaves from nodes along the stems during the winter. New leaves are also produced in winter at the base of the plant" (Parsons 1973).

Dispersal of the seeds by water is of considerable importance and accounts for the occurrence of Foeniculum vulgare along watercourses. Other means of dispersal include vehicles, machinery, wool, animal skins, clothing, mud, and agricultural produce (Parsons 1973).

Reproduction by root division is common knowledge among gardeners interested in increasing their supply of Foeniculum vulgare. This adaptation allows the species to become well established and invade new areas. Occasionally, pieces of fennel crown or root are dragged by cultivation equipment or spread by earthmoving machinery into uninfested areas (Parsons 1973). More commonly, water systems will spread fennel root systems during times of high water.

Habitat Comments: Foeniculum vulgare seems to tolerate sandy dry soil better than fertile loam, and it seems to prefer acid rather than alkaline soil. Germination occurs within about two weeks at a temperature of 18 C. It can tolerate a range of annual precipitation from 0.3 to 2.6 m and soil pH from 4.8 to 8.3 (Simon et al. 1984).
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Information on controlling and/or eradicating Foeniculum vulgare infestations is limited. Among mechanical means, deep cultivation could be successful. Mattocking is promising on smaller infestations. Herbicides proven successful in controlling fennel include picloram, 2,4-D, and 2,4,5-T.

Foeniculum vulgare is usually found in areas so disturbed as to be of low ecological quality. However, restoration may be desirable. All removal methods reported here are somewhat disruptive; nonherbicide methods are recommended, but only if the effected area is small. In any case, revegetation should be considered as part of the treatment program.

Species Impacts: Fennel is not usually found in grazed pastures and will establish itself only in neglected situations such as roadsides, vacant blocks, headlands, etc. Once firmly established it excludes almost all other vegetation, and because of its strong smell, it is not grazed by animals" (Parsons 1973). Where established, Foeniculum vulgare is persistent and difficult to eradicate. It appears to establish in areas of heavy disturbance, where it will quickly occupy available space. It does not appear to be aggressive in invading lightly disturbed or undisturbed natural areas. Management practices that open up and disrupt the soil are likely to encourage fennel growth and establishment.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Where established, Foeniculum vulgare is persistent and difficult to eradicate. Since recovery potential is not known, the presence of extensive patches should be carefully considered in future land acquisition decisions.
Management Requirements: This species requires active management to control and/or eliminate it. Researched methods of control are listed below.

The following are methods of control that have been practiced in the past. Literature in this field is scanty at best. Most publications on Foeniculum vulgare address how to suppress weeds that invade it in agricultural situations (without damaging it). Many publications are from countries that cultivate it (India, Egypt, Russia) and are not written in English. Any additional information will be appreciated.

Manual/Mechanical control: Parsons (1973) suggests that deep cultivation is effective in killing Foeniculum vulgare, but he goes on to say that it is seldom practical because of the kinds of situations in which the plant occurs. Mattocking, though more labor intensive, has proven successful and is more practical than deep cultivation for small infestations. Since highly disturbed ground is conducive to reinfestation, immediate revegetation is needed to prevent the re-establishment of fennel.

Chemical control: "Fennel is susceptible to sprays containing 2,4-D (80% a.i.) which should be applied by spot spraying at a dilution of one part in 400 parts of water. Application should be done when the plants are actively growing but before the flowering stage. Care should be taken to wet the plants thoroughly, particularly the crowns" (Parsons 1973).

Other published chemical treatments of control include a combination of picloram and 2,4,5-T applied at flowering (Patterson 1967).

In Buenos Aires where fennel was creating a problem in reducing road visibility for motorists, a mixture of picloram (Tordon 50.D) (23.6%) and 2,4,5-T (76.4%) was sprayed at 2 liters per hectare with excellent results (93% mortality).

Biological control: No biological controls are known.

Management Research Needs: 1. Is digging Foeniculum vulgare out by hand a feasible method for eradicating large areas?

2. What chemicals will destroy Foeniculum vulgare? Any organics?

3. Would mowing several times during the summer be effective for eradication?

Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium/Low
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: As a conspicuous non-native, the most dramatic effects are on community structure and displacing native species, especially in California. However most of the impacts are in highly disturbed areas.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: High/Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: High/Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 26Feb2004
Evaluator: Fellows, M.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Europe, Asia and Northern Africa (Weber 2003).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: (Bossard et al. 2000).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Inferred - none mentioned in a wide variety of sources that discussed fire regime, geomorphology and nutrient cycling.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Moderate significance
Comments: 90 -150 cm in height, often exceeding 2 m (Weber 2003). Stout above- and belowground (Weber 2003). Forms dense mats and alters structure (Weber 2003). Drastically alters structure (Bossard et al. 2000).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Moderate significance
Comments: Reduces species richness and alters composition (Weber 2003). Excludes or prevents reestablishment of native species (Bossard et al. 2000). Drastically alter (Bossard et al. 2000). May be alleopathic (Bossard et al. 2000).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Associated with declines in native plants on the Channel Islands (Zavaleta et al. 2001). Removal of fennel increases invertebrate diversity (Fox et al. 2003).

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Can invade and outcompete natives in coastal scrub and coastal sage (rare and vulnerable communities) (Weber 2003). Has invaded Santa Cruz Island, achieving 50-90% absolute cover (Bossard et al. 2000). Usually found in areas of low ecological quality (Bean and Russo 1988).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: Throughout U.S., including HI but not AK, and not including Great Basin, Great Plains and Shortgrass Prairie Ecoregions and the neighboring ecoregions (Kartesz 1999; TNC 2001).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Can be locally dense, particularily aggressive in recently cultivated areas (Bossard et al. 2000). CAL-EPPC 1999 A-List. Moderately Invasive in VA. Inferred - not a lot of information outside of California.

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Potential in more than 37 ecoregions as it occurs throughout the U.S., including HI but not AK, and not including Great Basin, Great Plains and Shortgrass Prairie Ecoregions and the neighboring ecoregions (Kartesz 1999; TNC 2001). County level occurrence data from the Plants Database , confirms occurrence in at least 19 ecoregions (NRCS 2004).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High significance
Comments: Wetland plant (Kartesz 1999). Grass- and woodland, coastal scrub, riparian habitats, rock outcrops and disturbed sites (Weber 2003).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: High/Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:High/Low significance
Comments: Inferred from its successful reproduction techniques.

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Low significance
Comments: Inferred from Kartesz (1999) distribution and habitat characteristics (Bossard et al. 2000).

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Seeds are dispersed by water, vehicles, clothing, birds and rodents (Bossard et al. 2000). Originally introduced at least 120 years ago (Bossard et al. 2000).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:High/Low significance
Comments: Inferred from its successful reproduction techniques.

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Low significance
Comments: Presumed to have escaped from cultivation repeatedly (Bossard et al. 2000). Usually colonizes distrubed areas adjacent to water (Bossard et al. 2000).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:High/Low significance
Comments: Canada (Kartesz 1999) and Australia (Weber 2003).

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: Can resprout from tap root (Bossard et al. 2000; Weber 2003). Prolific seed production and viability (Bossard et al. 2000). Long-lived seed bank (Bossard et al. 2000).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: High/Medium

17. General Management Difficulty:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Hand dig small plants, remove taproot to prevent regrowth, herbicides (Weber 2003). Tenacious and difficult to control (Bossard et al. 2000). Cutting while plants are producing seed promotes dispersal (Bossard et al. 2000).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Perennial (Kartesz 1999). Must remove taproot to prevent resprout (Weber 2003). Tenacious and difficult to control (Bossard et al. 2000). Long-lived seed bank (Bossard et al. 2000). Requires long-term commitment (Bossard et al. 2000).

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Inferred- digging in soil could disturb native community and increase risk of non-native invasion. Significant increase in native herbaceous species immediately following removal which quickly becomes outcompeted by non-native grasses (Bossard et al. 2000)

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:High/Low significance
Comments: Timing is important: cutting while plants are producing seed promotes dispersal (Bossard et al. 2000).
Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 30Apr1985
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Caitlin Bean, Mary J. Russo (revision).
Management Information Edition Date: 17Oct1988
Management Information Edition Author: CAITLIN BEAN (1985), REVISED BY MARY J. RUSSO (1995)
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 17Oct1988
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): CAITLIN BEAN [85-04-30]

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Bean, C. and M. Russo (revision) 1988. Element Stewardship Abstract for Foeniculum vulgare. The Nature Conservancy. Arlington, Virginia.

  • Bossard, C.C., J.M. Randall, and M. Hoshovsky. (eds.) 2000. Invasive Plants of California's Wildlands. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

  • Douglas, G.W., G.D. Straley, and D. Meidinger, eds. 1998b. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Vol. 1, Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons (Aceraceae through Asteraceae). B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Wildl. Branch, and B.C. Minist. For. Res. Program. 436pp.

  • Fox, W.K., R.W. Thorp, M.K. Niemela and R.C. Klinger. 2003. A preliminary analysis of shifts in invertebrate community structure following fennel control on Santa Cruz Island, California. Abstract for an Oral Presentation given at Sixth California Islands Symposium. December 1-3, 2002, Ventura, California.

  • Garland, S. 1979. The complete book of herbs and spices. Viking Press, New York. 287 pp.

  • Gupta, J. H. and V.P. Srivastava. 1976. A new root rot of fennel caused by FUSARIUM SOLANI. Indian Journal of Mycological Plant Pathology 8: 206.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Munz, P.A., and D.D. Keck. 1973. A California Flora and Supplement. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 1905 pp.

  • Parsons, W. T. 1973. Noxious weeds of Victoria. Inkata Press, Ltd., Melbourne, Australia. 300 pp.

  • Patterson, T. M. 1967. Departmental trials with Tordon. Weed Abstracts Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, 16 (ref #524).

  • Robbins, W. W., M.K. Bellue, and W.S. Ball. 1941. Weeds of California. California Dept. of Agriculture. 491 pp.

  • Robbins, W.W., M.K. Bellue, and W.S. Ball. 1970. Weeds of California. State of California, Department of Agriculture. 547 pp.

  • Simon, J. E., A. F. Chadwick, and L. E. Craker. 1984. Herbs, an indexed bibliography 1971-1980. Archon Books, Hamden, Connecticut.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • Weber, E. 2003. Invasive plant species of the world: a reference guide to environmental weeds. CABI Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 548 pp.

  • Zavaleta, E.S., R.J. Hobbs and H.A. Mooney. 2001. Viewing invasive species removal in a whole-ecosystem context. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16(8):454-459.

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