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Cow parsley

Anthriscus sylvestris

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Conservation Status

Green, least concern

Best Time to See

April, May and June. It is one of the earliest flowering of the Carrot family.

Natural Habitat

Often seen on roadsides and near hedgerows. Also found in woodland edges.

Frothy and lacy, this wildflower grows in abundance along thoroughfares in summer.

How to identify it
Its tripinnate leaves are fern-like with pointed leaflets. Seeds are oblong, beaked and smooth. Stems are hollow, without spots.

How is it doing?
One of the few flowers that benefits from current road verge management since it likes high levels of nutrients (much like nettles). Sadly, this is at the expense of other species.

Did you know?
Like the closely-related wild carrot, it is also called “Queen Anne’s Lace”. Other names are Lady’s lace, Fairy lace, Spanish lace, Kex, Kecksie, Queque, Mother die, Step-mother, Grandpa’s pepper, Hedge parsley, Badman’s oatmeal, Blackman’s tobacco and Rabbit meat.

It is related to the carrot as well as parsley. The rather dismissive English name, Cow parsley, simply means an inferior version of real parsley. Perhaps this is an appropriate name for this truly vernacular blossom but is not as pretty as Queen Anne’s Lace which has never really caught on.

It has a rising reputation for being a decorative flower and is widely used in church arrangements on account of its sprays working well in a vase and the shape and blossom lasting over a week.

It can be confused with hemlock (which is poisonous) and hogweed (sap burns in sunlight), so if handling, caution is advised. Kex and its derivatives are also used to describe hogweed and hemlock.

Properly identified, young cow parsley leaves can be a fresh and mildly aromatic addition to omelettes and salads. However, the name Mother die, which implies that your mother will die if you pick the plant, is perhaps a useful reminder to discourage the picking of any umbellifers since edible and toxic species are so similar looking.

www.plantlife.org.uk for more information



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