Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: The distribution of A. foeniculum is centered on the northern Plains states, with diminishing occurrences east towards the Atlantic, west towards Washington, north into Canada, and south into Colorado, Nebraska, and Kentucky (USDA-NRCS 1999). A. foeniculum is apparently restricted to North America. The more eastern and western populations of this species (Montana, Washington, and east from Minnesota, Illinois, and western Ontario) are apparently introduced (Lint and Epling 1945, Gleason and Cronquist 1963, Great Plains Flora Association 1986, New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory). In Manitoba, the plant occurs in the southern half of the province (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre).
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Comments: In the eastern part of its range (roughly east from Wisconsin and Illinois) A. foeniculum grows in prairies and dry woods (Gleason and Cronquist 1963), but further west, its habitat becomes more that of moist woods, lakeshores, and open, wet ditches (Great Plains Flora Association 1986). In Ontario it is reported from dry, open, rocky sites (Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre). In Michigan it is found in dry fields and forest clearings (Michigan Natural Features Inventory). In southeastern Montana it is found in pine woodlands, while in northeastern Montana it is found in woody ravines (Montana Natural Heritage Program).
Flower-Visiting Insects of Anise Hyssop in Illinois
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen, flies & beetles suck nectar or feed on pollen, other insects suck nectar; one observation is from Moure & Hurd as indicated below, otherwise they are from Reed)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus affinis, Bombus bimaculatus, Bombus fervida, Bombus griseocallis, Bombus impatiens, Bombus vagans; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina sp.; Megachilidae (Anthidinini): Anthidium psoraleae; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile latimanus; Megachilidae (Trypetini): Heriades carinatum
Halictidae (Dufoureinae): Dufourea monardae cp olg (MH, Re); Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella striata, Halictus rubicunda, Lasioglossum sp., Lasioglossum albipennis, Lasioglossum cressonii, Lasioglossum heterognathus, Lasioglossum illinoensis, Lasioglossum imitatus, Lasioglossum laevissimus, Lasioglossum paraforbesii, Lasioglossum pictus, Lasioglossum pilosus, Lasioglossum pruinosus, Lasioglossum rohweri, Lasioglossum tegularis, Lasioglossum zephyrus; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus affinis, Hylaeus mesillae, Hylaeus modestus modestus
Perilampidae: Perilampus hyalinus
Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua, Orthonevra sp., Sphaerophoria contiqua, Syrphus sp., Toxomerus marginatus; Bombyliidae: Exoprosopa sp., Systoechus sp.
Nymphalidae: Cercyonis pegala alope, Vanessa cardui; Lycaenidae: Celastrina argiolus
Hesperiidae: Epargyreus clarus, Thorybes pylades
Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis; Sphingidae: Hemaris diffinis
Cantharidae: Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus; Meloidae: Epicauta pensylvanica
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Comments: 150-200+ occurrences of this species appear to be extant rangewide. Manitoba: >100; Michigan: 3 counties; Nebraska: 8, only 5 visited since the 1970s; Colorado: 8, 6 last observed around 1900; Wyoming: 7 extant and 2 historic; Montana: 7 sites in 7 counties in the east, although the state flora only reports it from 2 counties, both of which represent collections from plantings or possibly horticultural escapes; Ontario: reportedly "widespread and locally common" in the northwest, but some occurrences in the south are apparently adventive; British Columbia: 4, all last observed before 1950; apparently exotic in Connecticut, Delaware, and New York (Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centres).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Agastache foeniculum
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Agastache foeniculum
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: This species is apparently most abundant and secure in south-central Canada, but is considered rare in most of the rest of its native range (and has been established as an exotic in a few other places).
Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Comments: Prairies are one of the major habitats of this species, especially on the eastern side of its range. Most mixed-grass and tallgrass prairies have been destroyed for crop production. It is likely that many populations of A. foeniculum were lost in this process, and that contemporary distribution maps in this region could only record a skeleton of its former distribution pattern. However, given the number of extant (though small and degraded) prairie and woodland remnants through this eastern portion of the range, current distribution maps (USDA-NRCS 1999) suggest that this species was not originally common here. Suggestions that A. foeniculum is introduced in the most eastern portion of its range (Gleason and Cronquist 1963, Great Plains Flora Association 1986) imply that at least there it is not especially vulnerable to decline (or, of little conservation significance if within this region it is in decline). However, due to its preference for prairie, it is likely that native wild populations are still feeling the effects of habitat loss. Ayers and Widrlechner (1994a) has a good review of historical records of this plant.
Comments: Threats are habitat loss, grazing, exotic species, lack of fire, road maintenance, and wild-collection. In Manitoba, direct and indirect evidence exists of wild-collection for the plant trade. This collection probably occurs from tall grass prairie sites in the vicinity of Winnipeg (Elizabeth Punter pers. comm.). The species is reportedly "easy to collect" (Robyn Klein pers. comm.). Trade in the plant is minor, and it is cultivated but perhaps not broadly (Michael McGuffin pers. comm.). Because it grows readily and quickly from seed, it is presumed that if wild collection of this species increases in the future, the impact on wild populations could be offset rather easily by cultivation.
Most mixed grass and tallgrass prairie communities have been destroyed for agriculture. Many of the prairie communities that remain are ecologically strained by grazing, invasive species, or lack of adequate ecological management. Many dry or upland woods in the eastern half of North America have experienced dramatic reductions in fire events, causing changes in species composition, community structure, and hydrological conditions. These changes to eastern woodland communities may translate to habitat loss for this species, though it is not apparent that cause-effect relationship has been demonstrated anywhere.
In the western parts of its range, this species is found in areas that are often heavily impacted by grazing, such as moist woodlands, mesic meadows, and streambanks and lakeshores in the shortgrass and mixed-grass prairie regions. Trampling and grazing of this species by cattle has been observed in Nebraska. Occurrences in northeastern Montana are located on private land in woody ravines, and are reportedly threatened, presumably due to current land use practices. Populations in southeastern Montana, found in pine woods, have persisted under fire and logging, but are vulnerable to weed invasion and increases in grazing intensity (Bonnie Heidel pers. comm.).
In Manitoba, threats are road maintenance activities, haying, grazing, and wild-collection (Elizabeth Punter pers. comm.). This species is apparently less susceptible to damage from Verticillium wilt (a fungal disease caused by the widely distributed Verticillium spp.) than one of the other commonly cultivated species, the non-native Agastache rugosa (Fuentes-Granados and Widrlechner 1995).
Biological Research Needs: Development of a reliable conservation assessment or strategy for this species probably requires the following information: (1) Whether eastern-most populations are introduced, and if so by whom, and when. (Native American for medicinal use in prehistoric times? Recent introductions in hay seed?) (2) Whether populations in the approximate tallgrass prairie biome occur on sites which are receiving adequate ecological management. (3) Whether the eastern dry woods occurrences of this species are suffering from lack of fire, and if this also translates into a threat for A. foeniculum. (4) How well this species survives in the context of cattle grazing, noxious weed invasion, and water diversion in the shortgrass prairie region.
The North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station at Iowa State University has been working with A. foeniculum since the mid-1980's, and a comprehensive review of research on the non-bee uses of this plant has recently been published by this organization (Mark Widrlechner pers. comm.).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: FOOD, MEDICINE/DRUG
Production Methods: Cultivated
Comments: The aerial portions of the plant are used for a variety of medicinal uses. The volatile oils are reputed to be useful for their antimicrobial action, which helps wounds heal. The tannins found in the plant also have astringent and antimicrobial properties. Many mint genera are used for nervine (anti-anxiety and nerve tonic) uses. Many Indian tribes, who refer to the species variously as bear mint, horse mint, and elk mint, use A. foeniculum as a beverage tea. It was also used for colds, coughing, and for a weak heart (Robyn Klein pers. comm.).
Prices for this species were found as follows:
California, internet: $3.25/live individual plant (mail order delivery)
Pennsylvania, internet: $0.73/oz of dried "hyssop herb"; could be another species
Unknown location: $10-20/lb of dried aerial portions (Robyn Klein pers. comm.)
Manitoba: $1.95 Canadian/plant (1995 price), $3.26-3.56 Canadian/packet of seed (1998 price) (Elizabeth Punter pers. comm.)
Agastache foeniculum (blue giant hyssop; syn. Agastache anethiodora (Nutt.) Britton), commonly called anise hyssop, blue giant hyssop, Fragrant giant hyssop, or the lavender giant hyssop, is a species of perennial plant in the mint family, (Lamiaceae). This plant is native to much of north-central and northern North America, notably the Great Plains and other prairies, and can be found in areas of Canada. It is tolerant of deer and drought, and also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies making it an attractive selection for gardeners. 
Anise hyssop is in the same family as hyssop (the mint family Lamiaceae), but they are not closely related. Hyssop (Hyssopus) is a genus of about 10-12 species of herbaceous or semi-woody plants native from the east Mediterranean to central Asia. The genus name is related to the flower clusters, derived from the Greek word argan meaning "ear of grain".
This species grows from 2 feet (0.61 m) to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and 1 foot (0.30 m) wide, in a clump-like, upright shape, with flowers appearing in showy verticillasters, or false whorls, and occasionally branching at the apex. The leaves have an oval, toothed shape with a white tint underneath. The plant blooms in June to September with bright lavender flowers that become more colorful near the tip. The flowers produce no floral scent. The root system produces a taproot.
Anise hyssop was used medicinally by Native Americans for cough, fevers, wounds, diarrhea. The soft, anise-scented leaves are used as a seasoning, as a tea, in potpourri, and can be crumbled in salad. The purple flower spike is favored by bees who make a light fragrant honey from the nectar.
- USDA PLANTS Profile for Agastache foeniculum
- "Agastache foeniculum". Missouri Botanical Gardens. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "Blue giant hyssop". Wildflower. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "Anise hyssop". Illinois Wildflowers. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "Agastache foeniculum (Anise hyssop)". Fine Gardening. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "Herbs"; Smithsonian Handbook - Lesley Bremness
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