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a genus of annual herbaceous plants of the family Ranunculaceae. The leaves are usually twice or thrice pinnatisect, with narrow lobes. The flowers are generally solitary and regular. There are five petaloid sepals; the petals are small and in the form of two-lipped nectaries. The multiple fruit consists of five (or ten) fused follicles. The seeds are black.
There are approximately 25 species, distributed mainly in the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. The USSR has 11 species, growing in steppes, in weedy areas, and amid crops in the European portion, the Caucasus, and Middle Asia. The most common species are the fennel flower (N. sativa) and love-in-amist (N. damascena). The former is raised for its seeds in the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, the southern portion of Western Europe, and the USSR (central regions of the European USSR and—less commonly—the Northern Caucasus). The seeds are used as a spice. Love-in-a-mist, an ornamental with blue-violet or white flowers hidden among slightly dissected apical leaves, is also grown in many countries for its seeds. Many species of Nigella are nectar-bearers.