The Q&A Archives: What is this?

Question: I recently bought a house with a garden that was begun in 1929. The woman who planted was a perennial freak (for which I am grateful) but I'm afraid to pull any "weeds" for fear they are just perennials gone astray. In particular, I have several plants with fern-frond-like leaves and white flower-heads with numerous little flowers on them. It is not Queen Anne's Lace, as I know that flower. The leaves are softer and fleshier. The most distinctive attribute is that the leaves, when crushed, smell strongly of anise. What is this plant? Any ideas?

Answer: Based upon your description, I'd venture the plant is Pimpinella. It has bright green, toothed basal leaves and feathery upper leaves. The flowers are borne in umbels, similar to Queen Anne's Lace. It's an annual herb which readily self-sows in the garden. The plants flower all summer and will grow 18" - 36" tall in a sunny site with average garden soil.

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