On our recent visit to Devon we saw lots of these yellow flowers that look otherwise like the white cow parsley, wild carrot etc. A bit of web research suggests that this is wild parsnip.
Although the root of wild parsnip is edible, the shoots and leaves should be handled with caution as their sap contains photo-sensitive chemicals which can cause a reddening, blisters and burning of the skin. It is regarded as an invasive species in parts of North America.
It occurs to me that I have a similar looking umbellifer in the back garden, a fennel plant, but fennel does not have such poisonous attributes and flowers much later in the year.
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.
I 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.
The 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.
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.
The 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.
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
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.