fennel, common name for several perennial herbs, genus Foeniculum vulgare of the family Umbelliferae (parsley family), related to dill. The strawlike foliage and the seeds are licorice-scented and are used (especially in Italian cooking) for flavoring. Sweet fennel, or finocchio, is a variety with a thick, bulb-based stalk eaten like celery. In literature and legend fennel is a symbol of flattery, a remedy for failing eyesight, and an aphrodisiac. Its inflorescence is a flat-topped umbel of yellow florets. Fennel-flower, a member of the buttercup family, also produces aromatic seeds. The dog fennels are members of the family Asteraceae (aster family). Fennel is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Apiales, family Umbelliferae.