This post is part of the UK Herbarium June Blog Party My Favourite Tree Medicines, kindly hosted by Lucinda at Whispering Earth.

I think I might be in love.

I picked some hawthorns at Easter and set them out to dry. In the past week I’ve been experimenting with water based preparations to find the best way to use the dried berries. I’ve been using hawthorn berry tincture for a few years, off and on, but had never worked with the dried berries.

At Easter I also started an experiment to see if I could make fruit leather, but the resultant mash (fresh berries simmered in minimal water long and slow, and then pressed through a sieve) was so unappetising that I froze it until I can figure out what to do with it. Hawthorn berry tincture has such a delightful taste that I was sure the fruit leather would be a go if I could get it to dry properly. The berries themselves are pleasant enough tasting especially now that they’ve had a few frosts to sweeten them up, but there must be something about heat that changes the taste.

So I was curious to see what would happen with my newly dried berries. First I made some tea – a tablespoon of berries steeped in a cup of just boiled water for 20 or 30 minutes. The result was pale, bland and not particularly inspiring. The berries are very hard when dried, so I figured they needed more heat to cause the cell walls to break and release all the goodies. A few more experiments and I’ve settled on this:

Hawthorn decoction

1. put 3 tablespoons/30gm hawthorn berries in a suitable pot (I use an old coffee pot because it’s easy to pour from).

2. add 500 ml cold water and put on the lid.

3. put on a slow heat and bring to a simmer. Don’t boil, as this will release the more bitter flavours and probably destroy some of the vitamins.

4. simmer for as long as you like, or can wait – 30 minutes is fine but I’ve left it on a very slow heat for an hour or more.

5. drink as is, or allow to infuse in the pot for as long as it takes you to use it up. I’m currently making 4 cups at a time and letting it infuse for several days before the last cup is drunk.

This brew is rich, oily and satisfying*. It has an initial distinct sweetness, quickly followed by the kind of tartness that is associated with vitamin C (similar to its cousin the rosehips). There are undertones of bitter.

* I’ve just looked this up and it’s not oily so much as soapy – hawthorn berries contain saponins, chemicals that make things slippery.

Harvesting and Drying

One of the things I love about hawthorn is that it is so abundant. Both in terms of berries on the tree, and trees in the landscape.

This is a herb that we can harvest with relative ease and in many places there is so much hawthorn we can harvest large amounts. This is necessary for making nourishing type infusions that use a lot of herb to brew. But it’s also reminds us that even in the depths of winter the land has much to offer. Hawthorn often grows on land where not much else does well, giving us a gnarly nourishment. Because of its abundance and ability to grow in marginal places and because it offers strong but safe medicine as well as nutrition, I consider it one of our important wild plants in terms of powerdown and transition to a post-oil life. Hawthorn will of course also grow happily in a garden, and is a common tree in hedgerows in the UK – there are hedges of hawthorn in NZ, but I’m not sure if it’s used in mix hedgerows much here.

For harvesting the berries, I take a basket and a pair of scissors or garden snips. At this time of year there are no leaves and so the berries are easier to take off the branches. You can usually snap off a cluster from its branch, sometimes I use the snips.

At home I then cut the berries off the small stalks. I think the stalks are fine to be used in the decoction, but the berries will dry better if not in clusters. You can cut the berries off easily in bunches, being careful to not cut the berries themselves. I then lay them in a single layer on a cane tray to dry, giving the tray a shuffle once a day or so to turn the berries and make sure they dry evenly.

You could also leave the berries in their clusters and hang them over a line. Either way they need to be somewhere warm and dry.

The last batch seemed to take a long time to dry – more than a month. The berries have a dry-ish texture so I wonder if it’s the thickness of the skin that makes them take a while to dry. The current batch are bigger than last time, presumably because we’ve had so much rain. I’ve weighed them to see how much water has evaporated once they have dried.

I’m drinking hawthorn because the taste is lovely and because I want a warming digestive* breakfast drink on these cold winter mornings. I find the brew relaxing, almost sedative, having a general feeling of opening. I’m also happy that the decoction will be yielding significant amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients including bioflavonoids. And I like that hawthorn is a safe heart tonic, so it will be promoting good heart health in my middle years.

* that’s the sour and bitter tastes.


More things to do with hawthorn berries.

HerbTV’s video on Valentine’s Day herbs has some excellent information on hawthorn as medicine (US hawthorns look a bit different to ours, but are interchangeable medicinally and for food).


I’ve been meaning to do some posts on good online herbal medicine resources. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful opportunity. New Mexico folk herbalist Kiva Rose is doing a free online seminar on grassroots, kitchen and local herbalism. It’s hosted by John Gallagher, another US herbalist, who runs

Both Kiva and John are advocates of the self-empowerment model in herbalism – that we can take care of our health using easily accessible, affordable and safe remedies. If you’re not familiar with their work, it’s worth checking out their websites – where both also offer a wealth of information for free.

Here’s the description of the seminar from Kiva’s website:

We’ll be talking about hands-on, down-home herbalism for everyone, including tips for beginners and for working with the wild and weedy plants all around you, including those in your own backyard! Additionally, we’ll be discussing working with common kitchen remedies, and even a bit about the energetics of foods and how you can create healing for your family through your meals every single day. I’ll also be sharing some details about the upcoming (and oh so exciting) Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. Overall, we’ll be digging into the marrow of traditional herbalism, herbwifery, community-based healing and the many accessible ways we can each work with plants for greater health.

This is herbalism you can learn yourself and do at home for you and your whanau and friends. If you’re looking at increasing self-help herbalism skills I recommend checking this out.

According to my calculations, the seminar is next week, Thurs 10th June at 12.30pm NZT. It’s via live stream audio, so you’ll need broadband or a reliable and strong dial up connection. You just login at the right time, listen and take notes. There are limited places, and you need to register before then with an email address here.

The neighbours’ dog spends a bit of time at my place. He’s a jack russel cutie, about a year or so old. I’ve been impressed by the range of things he eats, even by dog standards. There’s the usual revolting things he’s dug up from somewhere, and he eats an array of items from the compost bucket each visit. But he’s also a bit of a herbalist. Today I stood and watched as he chomped on the wild thyme growing along the edge of the garden. He took big bites, pulling off the leaves, and then chewed them for a bit before moving on to the next bush. He did this six or eight times. Thyme is a strong plant, and a good medicine (anti-microbial, digestive aid and a lung healer) so I’m pleased to see him doing this (and I guess I should plant more thyme this year).

The other thing that impresses me is when we play tug-of-war or chase games with green birch sticks, he spends quite a bit of time chewing and eating the bark off the end of the stick. Birch bark is also good medicine, notable for its pain relieving properties but I suspect that there is something else he is after (I’m sure he’s not in pain generally).

He’ll eat couch grass of course, but also peach stones seem to be a favourite in the summer. I’m sure some of the value there is similar to bones – chewing on hard things promotes gum and tooth health – but peach pits are medicinal too.

Looking at that list now – thyme, birch, couch, peach pit – and given the dog’s penchant for eating pretty disgusting things as well as herbs, I wonder if it’s to do with limiting intestinal parasites (thyme, birch and couch are known anti-parasitics).

Modern ideas are often sceptical about animals’ abilities to use plants to heal but anyone who’s spent time with animals outside knows that they do eat a range of herbs. There’s a lovely book on animals and their ability to self medicate. Wild Health by Cindy Engel, is based in both traditional knowledge (Engel has been influenced by the grandmother of modern herbalism and holistic animal care, Juliette de Bairacli Levy) and science (Engel was a biologist originally).

There’s a couple of instructive things from watching animals eat medicinal herbs. One is that the boundary between food and medicine is often quite blurry. Some medicine is quite obviously not food (I wouldn’t want to eat echinacea for instance), but often food is medicine and medicine is food – think raw garlic or nettle soup. With animals this seems even more so. They’re not making tinctures and teas after all, so is that food in the birch bark or medicine or both? I’ve seen tree bark eaten by possums too, including willow and houhere (lacebark) and wondered the same thing.

The other instructive thing is that taste and smell are crucial aspects of self-medicating and herbal medicine. My neighbours’ dog isn’t relying on books or the internet ;-) or even oral-tradition herbal medicine to make choices about what herbs to eat. When he sniffs at and chews on birch bark, the communication between his taste buds, his brain and millions of years of evolution kicks in and he knows instinctively that this is a good and useful thing to eat. Further to that, instinctual eating based on taste also allows us to know when we’ve had enough. There are feedback loops in the body so that food and herbs start to taste different when we’ve reached our limit i.e. herbs that initially taste good start to taste less appealing, or even down right bad as our need for them diminishes.

This isn’t foolproof of course. Modern human and pet diets have altered our experience and perception of taste and smell hugely, and farmed animals certainly aren’t immune to poisoning themselves if exposed to the wrong plants in the wrong way. I’m not sure about wild animals though.

And the idea that our bodies can tell us directly what medicine we need and don’t need is so contrary to medical science where an expert and pharmaceutically funded, randomised controlled trials are needed to tell us what our medicine is, that we can sometimes doubt our own innate abilities. But the more we use herbs that we can taste and smell as our primary source of medicine, the more our bodies give us the cues about what we need (a diet not overloaded with highly processed foods is important too).

I’ve experienced this change in taste and need many times. Most notable was when waiting for my mahonia tincture to brew, I took up Kiva Rose’s suggestion and chewed on the twigs daily. Mahonia by most accounts is a strong bitter, and as such is a good liver herb (which is why I was taking it). As a tincture a dose is measured by the drop rather than the dropperful. When I started on the twigs they tasted so good to me it was like chewing on licorice root. Not that the mahonia was sweet*, but the twig chewing had the same degree of ‘yes I want more’ that licorice does (kids go mad for licorice root).

I had to be careful to not overdo it (mahonia is still a strong medicine after all), but I took my body’s reaction as a sign that this was the right herb for me at that time. And certainly I needed a liver support herb – mahonia resolved the problem over time (by the time the tincture was ready and then I didn’t need it, which is another learning in itself). My desire for the twigs did diminish over that month i.e. the taste became less appealing, and in the end I just stopped eating it rather than making a definite decision I didn’t need it anymore.

Taste and smell are also important ways of learning about plants and their medicinal uses. Bitter tasting herbs have distinct actions on the liver and digestive system, and slimey plants have mucilage which soothes mucous membranes. Plants with aromatic oils (thyme, rosemary) are often good antiseptic and anti-microbial herbs. When getting to know a plant, it’s good to spend time tasting and smelling it as well as making medicine from it.

*although recent explorations of the tincture, where I’ve been putting a few drops on my palm and licking them off, do yield a dark sweetness in amongst the stronger bitter flavours.

I just found out that black walnuts are edible. Black walnut trees* are the US species related to the English or Persian walnut (Juglans regia) that we are used to eating. The black walnut has a large yellow green globe casing that goes black with age. Inside is a nut shell more like a peach stone than a walnut and very hard to crack (which is why I assumed it wasn’t edible).

But thanks to the fantastic Wild Man Steve Brill I now know how to do the black walnut dance (video) and get to the meat inside (hammer or rock required).

Steve Brill is a very funny man, and a very experienced US forager (also famous for being arrested for eating dandelion leaves in New York’s Central Park), two three good reasons to check out his website.

It seems like all the local English walnut trees are well picked over, so I’ll see if I can find some black walnuts as I know there are a few trees around. According to Brill black walnuts are quite a bit stronger than English ones (he mixes the two), so I’m curious to try them out now.

* I think this is Juglans nigra but there are a number of black walnut species.

The thing about herbal vinegars is that they are not culinary vinegars. Culinary vinegars place a small amount of a strong smelling/tasting herb (eg tarragon) in vinegar in order to extract the taste. Herbal vinegars place a large amount of herb in vinegar for a long time in order to extract minerals, vitamins, and other goodies that you don’t get from culinary vinegars. They also taste and smell wonderful.

Herbal vinegars are both food and medicine. You can use them as a culinary vinegar too.


This is the basic fill a jar twice method that I use for tinctures, vinegars, oils etc:

* fill the jar once with chopped herb
* then fill again with vinegar.
* stir to release air and put a tight lid on
* label with date, plant, source etc and leave six weeks before decanting

Some tips

* use a plastic lid. Metal lids rust when exposed to vinegar. Metal lids with that smooth lining seem to be ok, but will rust if the lining is scratched.

* I use apple cider vinegar (acv) because it tastes good, is easily accessible and is made in NZ from NZ apples. ACV has a long history of folk lore use for health and healing. You can use other food vinegars. I’m leery of the more commercial non-apple ones, because they seem industrial to me.

* you can use raw (unpasteurised) vinegar, or pasteurised vinegar. Raw vinegar will smell more like a fermented product, pasteurised will smell just like vinegar and the herb you infuse. I like raw vinegar because it’s a live culture, but pasteurised is fine too. With raw vinegar you have less leeway – it is more likely to go off if you leave it too long or the plant sticks up above the vinegar. I don’t think I’ve ever had pasteurised go off. If you have problems with raw vinegar, try pasteurised until you get the hang of it and then try the raw again.

* put the infusing jar on a plate or other container to catch any seepage. Top up the vinegar as needed (check every day to start with, then once a week). It’s important that the herb stays completely submerged beneath the vinegar to prevent mould forming.

* some vinegars will form a ‘mother’ (in a decanted vinegar this will be a floating mass). This is part of the fermentation process and isn’t a problem.

What to do with herbal vinegar

* use it as a mineral supplement

* put it on salads or grains for a tasty, nourishing treat. Vinegar (along with salt and fat) aids digestion and increases availability of the nutrients in your meal.

* put 1 tablespoon in a glass of water and drink

* herbal vinegars can be used externally for medicinal compresses or soaks.

* some herbal vinegars make lovely cosmetics – I use lavender or elderflower dilute for a hair rinse.

* herbal vinegars are also good to clean with. Choose herbs that are antiseptic like pine, lavender, thyme, rosemary etc.

* herbal vinegars can be used as medicine. People that can’t take alcohol based tinctures sometimes use vinegar as a menstruum instead. Vinegar extracts different things from plants than alcohol (some medicinal herbs were traditionally extracted into vinegar instead of alcohol because of this), so they’re not direct substitutes, but vinegar and herbs in vinegar do have their own healing powers.

Brigitte has one of the best tutorials I’ve seen on making the vinegar itself.

Which herbs?

The list of plants you can put up in vinegar is almost endless – if you can eat a plant then you can probably make herbal vinegar from it.

Warning: there is a kind of bug you get when you make herbal vinegars, where you end up putting up every interesting plant you come across. Be prepared by hoarding jars and assigning extra storage space in your cupboards.

Here’s some of my favourites:

From left to right:

1. dandelion blossom ~ made in the spring from the flowers, but you can use any or all parts of the dandelion.

2. yellow dock root ~ I prefer yellow dock seed vinegar, but missed the ripe seeds this year. The root is best harvested once the plant has died back and after the frosts have started. Rumex crispus (yellow or curly dock) or R obtusifolia (broad leafed dock) are both fine for seed or root. I’ve not done the leaf, but am sure it would be interesting.

3. elderberry ~ berries might still available in some areas (just) if you get to them before the birds. Elderflower is a beautiful vinegar too, I like it for a hair rinse.

4. milkthistle/variegated thistle leaf ~ this should be around at the moment too.

5. plantain ~ best picked when leaf is lush and before seeding. I haven’t done this but I suspect you also could use the whole plant (leaf, seed and root, depending on the time of year). Both varieties are fine, this one was the broad leafed one. I love the subtle, dusky pink colour.

6. hawthorn berry ~ a good one to make up now. Leaf and flower in the spring would be good too.

7. fennel seed ~ also an autumn vinegar. I’ve made leaf vinegar in the past too, but prefer the stronger seed brew.

8. fat hen ~ I made this in summer from the whole above ground parts (leaf, stalk, seed). I was a bit sceptical about it, thinking it might be a bit boring, but it’s now one of my favourites.

9. shiitake ~ an imported plant! I make this from dried shiitake stalks left over from using whole shiitake mushrooms in cooking. Shiitake is an excellent immune assistant, and this vinegar is one of the tastiest.

10. feijoa ~ another import for down here but up North they’ll be ripe soon. I made this originally to see if the delightful fragrance of feijoa persisted (it does but mildly). I used the skins (because the fruity pulp had to be eaten), but if you had alot you could make some with the whole chopped fruit.

11. dandelion root ~ late autumn or winter vinegar (after the frosts and before the plant puts on its spring growth). The white colour is from the inulin in the root, a complex sugar that has many health benefits [link]

If you’re completely insane you can make Fire Cider.

Further reading on herbal vinegars and minerals:

A good overview from Black Toad herbals on which herbs have what vitamins and minerals in them.

Susun Weed’s articles on making herbals vinegars and which plants make good mineral supplements.

Brigitte’s post on Herbal Minerals has a list of minerals, some of their functions, and the herbs they can be found in. You could make herbal vinegar from most of those.

WordPress has just let me know that its spam blocker has removed 5 comments before I got to see them, permanently afaik. I’ve changed the settings so it can’t do that anymore, but if anyone has commented and their post hasn’t appeared please let me know, or post again (I think the problem is only on my blogposts over a month old, but would apply to posts made at anytime including recently).

I’ve been wanting to fix the categories section for ages. When I started the blog I read something about it being good to not have too many categories, but I can see that if I have one for each plant it will get mighty long. So I’ve stopped adding plant names as a category, and am trying to sort out how I want to do organise the categories in general. I’ve been looking at how other bloggers do this, but if any one has any suggestions, they’d be most welcome. Do you use the category links on this or any blog? Is it because you’re just looking around or is it for something more specific?

There’s a bit of other tinkering I need to do too, so there might be some odd changes (noticeable especially if you’re using the RSS feed I think).

I’ve been uninspired for naming this moon, so have settled on the obvious – Easter Moon, even though full moon was a week ago. Easter is a moveable feast and the date is wonderfully pagan, being the first Sunday closest to the full moon after the autumn equinox.

I love the equinoxes, much more than the solstices. I feel like I am standing on the edge of a circle, facing inwards, with my arms spread wide. On my right hand is the summer solstice past, and on my left is mid winter approaching. In front of me, across the circle, is the spring equinox, where I will be standing in 6 months time, again with my arms stretched out and marking the even-ness of days.

Of course the equinox was a few weeks ago, but I like the idea of celebrating or marking time according to the moon. Lunar time is easier to keep track of (maybe that’s a women’s thing too).

And I like that it moves. The first full moon after the equinox can be anywhere from right at the equinox to a month later.

I’ve not spent a whole autumn in Central before, and it’s been surprisingly changeable like I am used to on the coast in summer – hot and sunny one minute, then overcast and the temperature dropping the next. Normally autumn is my favourite time of year, but this autumn has thrown me, I wasn’t ready and I’m feeling the cold too much. I think it’s because on the coast the summer is usually crap, and the autumns are more settled, with the hot weather straddling the two. So autumn is often better than summer, or there is a sense of ease in the transition. But here in central, where the sunny day is god and infuses everything else that happens, it feels like a loss when the days get shorter and the leaves and temperature are dropping. It’s happened fast too, I don’t know if that’s normal for here.

Nice to have a few frosts though, I do like a decent frost.

This Easter I made hawthorn vinegar, and picked berries for drying.

My Mum taught me this the other day. I had badly scratched a wooden table (pine, so easily done). She got a piece of walnut and rubbed it on the scratch, which made the scratch blend in with the surrounding wood stain.

The other thing she taught me was to clean windows with just a few sheets of newspaper. I’d always cleaned with soapy water, rinsed with clean water, and then dried off with newspaper, but this new method is so much easier.

Scrunch up a sheet of newspaper and run it under the tap.

Squeeze it out a bit so it’s not dripping.

Use this to clean the window. You need a bit of pressure, but if you just go over the window well a few times it removes pretty much everything including flyspots. Don’t clean frames this way as the ink leaves black marks.

Check the window for smears by looking from the side.

Get a second piece of newspaper, scrunched up and dry the window. This is important as water that dries on the window leaves marks.

Put the newspaper in the compost, wormfarm or garden.

I love low tech solutions that don’t require buying anything or having waste afterwards.

Here’s another one from Brigitte: a broom broom.

This post is part of the UK Herbarium blog party on “Herbal treasures in March“, kindly hosted by Brigitte.

photo by swan-scot

A friend just emailed me this question: what can I do with hawthorn berries? (she’s surrounded by fruiting hawthorns), so here’s a list:

1. make a herbal vinegar, same process as this. Hawthorn berry vinegar is one of the tasty vinegars – tart and fruity. Try a tablespoon in a glass of water.

2. make a liqueur – plain or fancy (down the bottom of the page. There’s also an interesting savoury sauce recipe). A plain schnapps of hawthorn is basically a tincture, but you can use a lower strength alcohol (which makes it cheaper).

3. make a tincture. Hawthorn berry tincture is a world renowned heart and circulatory system tonic (even the scientists are catching on). Taken over months, it is considered a safe remedy that helps a range of heart problems. I also find the tincture helpful for the emotional heart when grieving – it seems to lighten things and allow the process to move with more ease.

4. make an aperitif (the Chinese have historically used hawthorn as a digestive aid, and it is considered especially good for meat meals).

5. you can also make an infusion.

6. make hawthorn jelly. I haven’t done this (not being a jam maker) but I have a friend who makes some every year and it tastes pretty yummy. There seem to be two different kinds of recipes – those that include apples or crabapples, and those that are hawthorn berry only. I’d be interested to hear any experiences with that. I ate my friend’s jelly as a sweet on oatcakes, but it would also go with meat and help with digestion.

7. eat the berries straight from the tree. Sometimes they are too dry inside, but other trees or other times yield a pleasant walking snack. I suspect that trees with adequate water have better tasting berries. Hawthorn berries are full of goodies:

8. make fruit leather. This Eating British guy in the UK had a go, but with variable results. Hawthorn berries dry pretty easily, so maybe the mould problem he gets is because he adds water. I might have a go with the leftover berries from making vinegar (ooh, sweet and sour fruit leather). Cooking the berries in the smallest amount of water might be the way to go too.

9. unfortunately google has no hawthorn berry ice cream recipes, so I will just have to make one…

10. make anything you usually do with fruit. I’ve seen recipes for hawthorn berry chutney and hawthorn berry wine.

11. make a poultice. Juliette de Bairacli Levy says the pulped raw fruits are “of high repute as a drawing remedy for deeply embedded splinters and thorns and for whitlows” (from Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, but that will work on humans too).

12. make magic. Hawthorn in Europe/the UK has a long tradition of magical uses that seem to centre around protection. If you’re not into the hippy/pagany aspects, you can use hawthorn to help you focus on what’s good or what needs healing etc.

hawthorn berry vinegar

If you are having spring not autumn right now, you’ll be pleased to know that hawthorn flowers and leaves are also very useful and much of what is true about the berries works for the spring plant too (with a few adjustments).

The fennel in my garden is aphid ridden so I was very happy to find some very large, lush fennel in seed in a friend’s garden today (and even happier that he let me pick it). Fennel seed vinegar is a favourite of mine and I got to make more than enough today for the year and for giving away. Here’s what I did:

1. The seed needs to be ripe. This means treat it like a fruit, not like a seed you want for sowing. So you don’t want it dry or brown or shrivelling. Fennel seeds are plump when ripe and still green.

2. Chop the seed heads into a measuring bowl. This will tell you roughly how big a jar you need. I got just under 2 litres, which when compressed a bit fit into a 1.5 litre jar.

3. Once the jar is filled with seed, fill it again with apple cider vinegar. Put the lid on (plastic, as vinegar will corrode metal) and shake a bit to loosen any air trapped in the seeds. There will be more air to surface, so check daily for the first week, and then weekly after that, and top up as needed. It’s important that the plant material stays submerged under the vinegar, especially if you are using unpasteurised vinegar.

4. Label the jar with plant and part of plant, date, menstruum (in this case raw apple cider vinegar), and place of harvest.

5. Let sit for 6 weeks, and then strain into a dark glass bottle.

6. Take as 1 tablespoon in a glass of water, or sprinkle on salads, grains, etc. Fennel seed vinegar tastes divine (if you like fennel), so prioritise it for dishes where the taste comes through.

Fennel seed is a lovely aromatic digestive aid. It has volatile oils in it, which make it warming and stimulating to the digestion. If you find bitters too cooling, the aromatic herbs can be a good choice for digestive woes. Fennel seed is mild, nutritive and easy to use regularly. New Mexico herbalist Kiva has an in depth article on the medicinal aspects of aromatic herbs especially in relation to digestion.

Fennel is a member of the Umbelliferae family, which includes many plants we are familiar with eg carrot, aniseed, caraway, dill, coriander, parsley, celery, parsnip, angelica, lovage. The flower and seed heads form umbels (like an umbrella shape) hence the family name.

There are some poisonous plants in this family, in NZ notably the hemlock, so it’s good to be certain you know what plant you are picking. Fortunately fennel in seed is distinctive by its fennel smell, which is pleasant, and hemlock has an unpleasant smell and other distinctive features. And generally they’re easy to tell apart once you see them:

fennel leaf

hemlock leaf

We have some native Umbelliferae plants in NZ, including a celery, several aniseeds, and the wild spaniard.