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What is Myrrhis?

By Deborah Walker
Updated May 17, 2024
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Myrrhis is a genus of plants that contains only one species, known as cicely, sweet cicely, spanish chervil, or garden myrrh. It is a tall, fragrant perennial herb native to England, Ireland, Scandinavia, and central Europe. It is a member of the parsley family. During late spring and early summer it bears clusters of star-shaped white flowers with delicate leaves that resemble fern. Myrrhis is used in cooking when an anise- or licorice-like flavor is desired.

The seeds of the Myrrhis plant do not keep well, so should be sewn during the fall, soon after collection. Its seed pods are long and thin, measuring about 0.5 to 1 inch (15 to 25 mm) long and 0.12 to 0.16 inches (3 to 4 mm) across. They can be sewn directly into the ground or into containers.

Myrrhis grows to be between 36 to 48 inches (90 to 120 cm) tall, with a spread between 18 and 24 inches (45 and 60 cm) across. The heart-shaped flowers are 0.08 to 0.16 inches (2 to 4 mm) wide. The bright green, feathery leaves can be up to 20 inches (50 cm) in length.

This plant prefers moderately fertile, well-drained, moist soil that has a mildly acidic, neutral, or mildly alkaline pH level. Its water needs are about average, but it is important not to over-water this plant to the point of making the soil muddy. It needs sun or partial shade, and grows best in United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones three through eight.

Cooks use fresh Myrrhis leaves in green salads, fruit salads, and drinks. Some add the leaves to stew, soup, or dressings. The roots can be boiled and served as a side dish with a vinaigrette dressing or white sauce. The seeds are sometimes picked green, chopped, and added to ice cream or fruit salad; whole, ripe seeds can be used in apple pie. The liquid left over from cooking the seeds can be used as a sugar replacement.

This is an easy-to-grow herb, with a long growing season compared to other perennial herbs. It is a hardy plant that is not prone to insect infestations or common plant diseases. Like many other perennials, in spring or fall the plants can be divided to prevent overcrowding.

Many gardeners enjoy using Myrrhis in traditional herb gardens, window boxes, in garden beds, and as edging or border plants. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to Myrrhis, and it is one of the first nectar-producing plants to come up in the springtime.

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Discussion Comments
By WaterHopper — On Aug 29, 2010

@medicchristy: Myrrh was considered a symbolically much appropriate gift for the baby Jesus. The myrrh, gold, and frankincense symbolized royalty and divinity. Myrrh makes reference to the future death of Jesus. It was used as incense burned at funerals up until the 15th century.

It has been said that the Roman Emperor Nero burned a year’s supply of myrrh at his wife Poppea’s funeral.

By momothree — On Aug 29, 2010

@medicchristy: It is, indeed, the same. In the Bible, it states that myrrh was one of the gifts brought to baby Jesus. There was great significance in that.

Myrrh was used for embalming Egyptian pharaohs. The Greeks looked at myrrh as sacred and only a few could afford the resin. Those who could afford it used it as incense and to treat illnesses.

Myrrh is the most often repeated aromatic essential oil talked about in the Bible.

By medicchristy — On Aug 29, 2010

Is myrrhis the same myrrh that is referred to in the Bible?

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