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(fennel), a genus of herbaceous biennial and perennial plants of the family Umbelliferae. The stem is rounded and branched. The leaves are pinnately compound, divided into long filamentous lobes with many-rayed (up to 20) umbels of yellow flowers and with fruits measuring 4–4.5 mm long. There are two species— F. vulgare and F. italica—which occur in the Mediterranean region. The erect, branching stem reaches a height of 2 m. There is a thick spindle-shaped taproot. The dark green leaves are alternate and pinnately compound. The inflorescence is a flat compound umbel; the tiny yellow flowers are cross-pollinating. The fruit, an elongate diachene, measures up to 14 mm long and 3–4 mm across; 1,000 achenes weigh 5–6 g. Fennel requires warmth, moisture, and high-quality chernozem soils. The petioles of F. italica, which grows mainly in Italy, form thick swellings at the base.
Fennel is an essential-oil and spice plant. The achenes contain up to 6.5 percent essential oil, which consists of 40–60 percent anethole. The essential oil is used in the perfume and soap industries, in medicine, and in veterinary medicine. The fruits are used to prepare fennel water, which is used to treat meteorism. The oil cake, which contains up to 20 percent protein, is used to fatten livestock.
Fennel has been cultivated since ancient times. It is grown on small areas in many European countries, as well as in the People’s Republic of China, Japan, India, northeastern Africa, and the USA. Fennel was first cultivated in Russia in the early 20th century (as an annual crop). In 1975 fennel occupied about 1,100 hectares (ha) in the USSR (Chernovtsy and Vinnitsa oblasts, Krasnodar Krai); the average yield of achenes was 10–14 quintals per ha. Fennel is planted in wide rows spaced 60 cm apart; the seeds are sown at a rate of 8–10 kg per ha and at depths of 2.5–3 cm. Care of the plantings entails three or four cultivations during vegetation, the application of fertilizer during the rosette and budding phases (up to 100 kg/ha of NPK), and destruction of weeds, pests, and causative agents of disease. Fennel is gathered by adapted grain-harvesting combines when approximately half the umbels have turned brown. After threshing, the seeds are dried to a moisture content of 13–14 percent. Insect pests of fennel include beetles of the genus Lethrus, wireworms, june beetles, turnip moths, and beet webworms; the most harmful disease is Cercospora infection.
REFERENCESShul’gin, G. T., and K. D. Zaloznyi. Kratkii spravochnik po efiromaslichnym kul’turam. Moscow, 1959.
Efiromaslichnye kul’tury. Moscow, 1963.
K. D. ZALOZNYI