Though its name would suggest otherwise, the anise hyssop herb is neither anise nor hyssop. It smells of anise - a licorice scent - and has hyssop in the name, but the plant is actually a type of mint of the family labiatae. A perennial, the plant's scientific name is agastache foeniculum. The plant is also known by several other names including blue giant hyssop and lavender giant hyssop.
Anise hyssop is easily identifiable as a member of the mint family due to the appearance of its leaves - oval-shaped but jagged opposite leaves. The leaves can grow to be up to four inches long and two inches wide.
The flowers of anise hyssop grow in an upright, spiky formations that are four to six inches tall. The entire plant can grow up to four feet tall and one foot wide. During its blooming season from June to September the flowers have a gradient purple color. The flowers are sometimes more blue than purple, but the flowers tend to be lighter colored near the bottom of the spike and darker colored near the top.
Anise hyssop is native to large swaths of the United States. It is found in the midwestern states growing in prairie areas. Anise hyssop is also found in parts of Canada. Native Americans in these areas used the plant for medicinal purposes.
Anise hyssop attracts bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies so it is useful for pollination and spreads easily. The leaves of the plant are also useful for making a lightly aromatic tea that can help to calm coughs. In fact, Native Americans used the plant to treat a number of maladies including coughs, fever, and digestive issues.
The flowers of anise hyssop are edible and can add a unique flavor to salads. The flowers are also fragrant and so are a popular addition to potpourri mixes.
The seeds of anise hyssop can be used in baked goods. Sprinkling anise hyssop seeds into batter will add a licorice flavor to breads, cakes, and cookies. The flavor can be strong, though, so not many seeds are necessary to add sufficient flavor.
Growing Anise Hyssop
Anise hyssop is a valuable plant for gardens because it is easy to grow and has attractive flowers that range in color from shades of blue to light purple to dark purple. Many gardeners use it as a border plant in the back of perennial gardens because of its height.
The plant can be grown by simply sprinkling seeds in the garden, and when it becomes too large to stand upright it can be cut back and will regrow easily. In fact, the plant grows so easily that is often found outside of gardens, growing on roadsides and in fields. Anise hyssop can survive without much water, and isn't at risk of being eaten by backyard wanderers such as deer. While it grows best in direct sunlight, the plant can thrive in medium sun.
Overall, anise hyssop is a practical and beautiful flower that will bloom year after year. For gardeners who enjoy plants that don't require much upkeep but still make the garden attractive and fragrant, anise hyssop is a good choice. And, gardeners who are also cooks will be able to impress guests with the additional dash of color and flavor that anise hyssop adds to salads. Then, the guests can be wowed again at dessert with a treat that features anise hyssop seeds for flavoring. The anise hyssop plant, thought its name is deceiving, is a valuable plant for gardeners, homemakers, cooks, and anyone looking to add a little more nature into their everyday life. Sow just a few anise hyssop seeds and watch your garden grow.