There is some confusion as to the true fennel flower. The genus nigella, of the ranunculaceae family, and foeniculum vulgare, of the apiaceae family, are both called fennel. Although both plants have uses in food and medicine, foeniculum vulgare is an umbelliferous herb, while nigella is an annual flowering plant. The fennel flower is indigenous to areas of southwest Asia, Africa, and southern Europe. It sprouts from a firm, branching stem with subtly separated, muted gray leaves, and a toothy, seed-filled capsule. The heads of these flowers contain between five and ten petals that may be white, pink, yellow or a pale blue and purple. These flowers are also said to give off a warm, spicy odor that is similar to nutmeg.
As is true with foeniculum vulgare, the fennel flower has a good deal of uses. The Romans once used this flower for its distinct flavor, while Asian herbalist have long prized it for its variety of medicinal properties. In the Middle East and India, the seeds of the fennel flower are frequently roasted and ground into a fine powder which is placed in many dishes – from curries to vegetable stir fries. In medicine these flowers are sometimes used as stimulants, to aid in decreasing perspiration and curing bowel related discomfort. Most notably, though, they are thought to help with certain pregnancy issues – for example, they are considered an effective emmenagogue and may help in urging on delayed labor, or stimulating milk production.
As a symbol, the fennel flower represents many things – from perplexity and feminine delicacy to healing and purification. Occasionally, people give these flowers as unique gifts to those that have done well for themselves, as they are sometimes representative of much deserved praise. However, they are most frequently traded between new lovers and long married couples, as they are best known as a symbol for the strong, unhindered bonds of love. Although these blossoms may be given in the classic bouquet, they are best present as potted plants or a single, cut blooms.