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Sweet Cicely

How can you tell the difference between sweet cicely and cow parsley? They say sweet cicely doesn't grow as tall but some cow parsley is not very tall.  


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 26,986

    If you have a photo we can probably see which is which.

    AS you say some cow parsley is not very tall and the appearance of both varies with growing conditions. Grown in a similar way sweet cicely will be shorter, bushier and softer looking with a hairier appearance and denser flower heads,

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Invicta2Invicta2 Posts: 663

    If you rub a leaf of Sweet Cicely there is a lovely aniseed scent lacking in Cow parsley. Sweet Cicely generally looks a more compact plant.

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,356

    The easiest way is to smell it! Sweet cicely has a lovely, sweet (of course!) aniseedy smell, cow parsley doesn't smell of anything much. Cow parsley has a light, airy appearance. It has darker green leaves too. Sweet cicely is a rather more solid looking plant, with wider leaves and more closely packed flower heads.  They grow next to each other along the verges near me and on average cow parsley is taller than sweet cicely, though, as is the way with averages, individual plants may balk the trend!

    Of course there are a lot of plants in the umbellifer family which look somewhat like cow parsley, including hemlock and water dropwort which are very poisonous, so be sure to take sensible precautions and a good identification guide when trying to sort them out!

  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 28,827

    Both plants are best left in hedgerows as they self seed and spread with gay abandon and are far too exuberant for most gardens.   They also have deep roots which are hard to dig out from amongst your treasures.

    Having said that, I like a bit of sweet cicely but I do control it and no longer leave the flowers to go to seed.  It has attractive foliage.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • AhmadmirzaAhmadmirza Posts: 57

    Thank you for all the information, I have a clump of sweet cicely and every year when it dies back I think it has gone for good and this year I jumped the gun and went and bought a pot from our local market stall. When I went to plant it I found mine had come up again so I gave the pot I had bought to my sister-in- law. Now I remember one of the best way to tell them apart is by the aniseed smell when you break a leaf from sweet cicely plant but not sure they always smell. My wife adds a leaf of sweet cicely to rhubarb in place of sugar.

  • So that is the difference between the two...I am happy I read this post...I also got confused about the two...Thank you...

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