It is a tall herbaceous perennial plant growing to 2 m [6 ft 6 in] tall, depending on circumstances. The leaves are 2-4-pinnate, finely divided, feathery, up to 50 cm long, with whitish patches near the rachis. The plant is softly hairy and smells strongly of aniseed when crushed. The flowers are white, about 2–4 mm across, produced in large umbels. The fruits are slender, 15–25 mm long and 3–4 mm broad.
In fertile soils it grows readily from seed, and may be increased by division in spring or autumn. Its leaves are sometimes used as a herb, either raw or cooked, with a rather strong taste reminiscent of anise; it is used mainly in Germany and Scandinavia. Like its relatives anise, fennel, and caraway, it can also be used to flavour akvavit. Its essential oils are dominated by anethole. The roots and seeds also are edible. Additionally, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb.