Well is it cow parsley?

It’s that time of year again – May/June and the roadside verges are covered in umbrella-shaped (umbelliferous) white flowers. I always used to tease my mother about whether they were all cow parsley or whether some were other species such as angelica or wild carrot. Neither of us really had a clue.

Cow Parsley

cow_parsley_flowerI got my camera out on a recent walk down Yorkshire country lanes. This one, I think, is definitely cow parsley. White flowers, five petals per flower head.

cow_parsley_leafThe leaves are fern-like. It is said they produce an aniseed-like scent when crushed – but don’t, there are several similar poisonous species.

A further source of confusion is that cow parsley is a member of the carrot family.

Wild Angelica


The next fairly easy one is wild angelica. The flowers have a pinkish tinge, and the stems have a tint of purple and may be downy as in the picture or hairless.

wild_angelica_leafThe leaves look hefty with a threefold pattern.

Also a member of the carrot family, Angelica is a very vigorous plant that can grow up to 2.5 metres high.wild_angelica_plant


Ground Elder

ground_elderGround elder doesn’t grow so tall.

Most of the discussion on the internet is on how to get rid of this invasive plant in gardens.

Wild Carrot or Queen Anne’s Lace

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I don’t think we saw any wild carrot on our walk. It is similar to cow parsley, perhaps more feathery leaves and often a distinctive single central red or purple flower. When rubbed the leaves smell of carrot.

Hemlock, Hogweed and the rest

These also look like cow parsley. Hemlock is poisonous, and hogweed (Cow Parsnip) can cause a rash.

Then there’s Great MasterWort, Saxifrage, Sanicle, Hairy Chervil, Cowbane, Caraway,…

No wonder mother and I never really got to grips with what was not cow parsley.

Pictures taken on our walk, apart from the wild carrot central flower illustration.






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