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On holiday in southern France and we found this small plant growing out of some rocky soil:

plant close-up 1

plant close-up 2

It smells quite strongly like anise but seems to be a different plant?

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There are several plants in the family Apiaceae with these kind of thin leaves, and some smell strong and/or are used as herbs in the kitchen. This must be Fennel Foeniculum vulgare, because you describe it's smell as anise. Dill looks similar, but smells different. Fennel is indigenous to the mediterranean, but planted all over Europe.

It can be quite big, but on poor, rocky soil might remain small.

Picture of fennel from Dutch wikipedia: enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Looking at more pictures it does seem very similar, this would be an absolutely tiny fennel plant though $\endgroup$ – Koen vd H Aug 21 '17 at 13:08

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