This member of the carrot family should not be gathered in the wild, as it looks much too much like poisonous hemlock. It's a pretty plant, with lacey flat and curly leaves and with pretty edible blossoms born on hollow stems.Originally a native of Southeast Europe and Asia Minor, it was spread by the Romans, who planted it near all its many camps in the Roman empire. Today it is most commonly known as an essential ingredient in the French fines herbes. If you can't find it fresh, try substituting 1 part tarragon with 2 parts parsley.
But look how Gerard Manley Hopkins, eccentric and exquisite British poet, uses it:
THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build--but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
Here in this poem of utter frustration and anger--all abstract and generalized--just one concrete thing in the world of sense is highlighted: "fretty chervil." I'm not sure exactly why--certainly it's known as one of the most fragile of herbs, giving up its volatile oils and life instantly, and notoriously hard to germinate...yet by comparison to poor Mr. Hopkins, it is thick and leaved and fretty and shaken by [spiritual] winds. Possibly, too, it is associated in Hopkins mind with the beginning of the Christian era as its cultivation began around that time, thanks to those food-mad Romans.