Flat-fruited Umbellifers

Caraway Common Hogweed Common Hogweed Common Parsnip

What are they?

Members of the umbellifer family (Apiaceae) are a familiar sight in the countryside and this page deals with umbellifers that have fruits that are very obviously and very strongly flattened in one plane, often leaving them disk-shaped, sometimes with ridges or winged edges. Most members of this family are immediately recognisable by their distinctive flowerheads, which consist of multiple rays spreading out from a single point on the stem, with these rays then bearing a further set of shorter rays at their tips; the flowers are carried singly at the ends of these secondary rays and the flowers are followed by distinctive fruits. Some members of this family are small annuals, while others are large biennials, forming a leaf rosette in the first year then flowering and fruiting in the following year. Some are longer-lived perennials. This is a rather unusual family since it contains plants that are commonly grown as vegetables or culinary herbs, as well as some dangerously poisonous ones - so correct identification can at times be vital!

Where are they found?

These are not all plants of any one particular habitat, so the habitat can be a useful aid towards identification. Here you may find species of wetlands, grasslands, roadsides, waste ground and urban areas.

Identification

Umbellifers may seem rather daunting at first as they all can look rather similar. However, the secret is to use a combination of characters to arrive at the correct identification. Features to check should include flower colour, stem detail (spotted/hairy/ridged), leaf detail (especially fineness of the leaf segments), fruit/seed capsule detail (shape and hairiness or whether grooved on the surface) and a check for the presence or absence of bracts or bracteoles at the points where the flowerhead rays meet (bracts at the lower, main node and bracteoles at the upper node, just below the flowers). Where possible, all these features are shown in the photos below and bract/bracteole locations are shown even when these features are absent - which can be a useful feature. Note also that many species have distinctive scents, so sniffing the plant can be useful and is best achieved by squeezing and rubbing part of the leaf or stem or digging in a thumb nail to help to release the scent.



Common Hogweed      Heracleum sphondylium

Native. An abundant species found in a wide range of habitats and particularly common in the enriched habitats of field edges, roadsides and 'improved' grassland. Flowers June to September, with odd flowers continuing through autumn and even into the New Year. Leaves one- to two-pinnate typically with coarse, broad segments that are roughly hairy, but some plants have distinctly narrower leaf segments; bracts 0-2, bracteoles 6-10, narrowly linear; fruits disk-shaped, strongly flattened laterally and with prominent styles at the top. The leaf stalks sheath the stem at the base. Flowers at the outer edge of the flowerhead are stongly asymetrical with much larger petals towards the outer edge of each flower.

Common Hogweed Common Hogweed Common Hogweed Common Hogweed
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Common Hogweed Common Hogweed Common Hogweed Common Hogweed
Bracteoles
Leaf
Leaf segment types
Fruits


Common Parsnip      Pastinaca sativa

Native. A common plant on chalky soils in the west of the region, along the North Norfolk coast and around Norwich and SE Suffolk. Flowers July to August. A tall plant to 1.8m in height. Leaves once-pinnate, leaflets relatively broad and coarsley toothed at the margins and often with a large, thumb-like lobe at the base, hairy - though hairless in cultivated forms that produce the parsnips that we eat. bracts 0-2, bracteoles 0-2; fruits oval, strongly laterally compressed. The whole plant has a familiar parsnip scent.

Common Parsnip Common Parsnip Common Parsnip Common Parsnip
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Common Parsnip Common Parsnip Common Parsnip
Bracteoles
Leaf
Fruits


Common Angelica      Angelica sylvestris

Native. A common and widespread species, found in a wide range of riverside and wet meadow habitats as well as in damp woodland. Flowers July to September. Leaves two- to three-pinnate with coarse, broad segments that have toothed margins, lightly hairy; bracts 0-3, bracteoles 6-10, narrowly linear; fruits oval, strongly flattened laterally and with clear ridges and broad wings. The leaf stalks are strongly inflated at the base and the inflated bases of the upper leaves surround the newly emerging flowerheads. The stems are often purple-tinged and have a downy covering of short hairs.

Common Angelica Common Angelica Common Angelica Common Angelica
Habit
Emerging flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Common Angelica Common Angelica Common Angelica Common Angelica
Bracteoles
Leaf
Leaf
Fruits


Northern Angelica      Angelica archangelica

(Garden Angelica) Introduced. Formerly occasionally noted as an escape from cultivation but this species is rarely grown these days. Flowers May to June. Rather similar to Common Angelica but often much taller (to two metres in height), with more pointed leaf segments and with fruits that have thicker, more corky wings.

Northern Angelica Northern Angelica Northern Angelica
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Northern Angelica Northern Angelica
Fruits
Fruits


Common Milk-parsley      Thysselinum palustre

Native. Found in a few tall-herb fens scattered across the region but locally common in good quality fens and reedbeds in Broadland, where it is the food plant for the larvae of the British race of Common Swallowtail butterfly. Flowers July to September. Lower leaves usually two- to four-pinnate, upper leaves one- to two-pinnate, hairless; bracts 4-6, bracteoles 5-10 and typically rather long and pale-edged; fruits elliptical, flattened laterally.

Common Milk-parsley Common Milk-parsley Common Milk-parsley
Flowers
Bracts
Bracteoles
Common Milk-parsley Common Milk-parsley Common Milk-parsley Common Milk-parsley
Lower leaf
Leaf detail
Stem
Fruits


Cambridge Milk-parsley      Selinum carvifolia

Native. Very rare with its entire UK population being confined to three wet fen reserves in Cambridgeshire. Flowers July to October. Leaves usually two- to three-pinnate, hairless; bracts 1-2 but soon falling, bracteoles 8-10; fruits elliptical, strongly flattened dorsally and with large, lateral wings.

Cambridge Milk-parsley Cambridge Milk-parsley Cambridge Milk-parsley Cambridge Milk-parsley
Habit
Flowers
Bracts & Bracteoles
Leaf


Greater Water-parsnip      Sium latifolium

Native. Very rare at a handful of locations in the region generally, but locally frequent in the Broadland region of Norfolk, especially along the wetlands of the Ant and the Bure. Flowers July to August. Petals white. Leaves once-pinnate, usually regularly toothed at the margins with the leaflets turned at 90 degrees to the main axis, hairless; bracts 2-6; bracteoles 3-6; fruits eliptical, laterally compressed.

Greater Water-parsnip Greater Water-parsnip Greater Water-parsnip Greater Water-parsnip
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Greater Water-parsnip Greater Water-parsnip Greater Water-parsnip Greater Water-parsnip
Leaf
Leaf margin
Bracts
Fruit


Caraway      Carum carvi

Formerly introduced for herbal and medicinal uses and then regularly found as an occasional weed of arable and rough ground. Now rare, as an occasional garden escape or from wildflower seed mixes. Flowers June to July. A small plant to around 60cm in height. Leaves two- to three-pinnate, finely cut like those of carrot, hairless; bracts and bracteoles often absent or just one or two and then sometimes rather long; fruits eliptical with a flattened top and strongly ribbed.

Caraway Caraway Caraway Caraway
Habit
Flowers
Bracts
Bracteoles
Caraway Caraway Caraway Caraway
Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Fruit
Fruit


Dill      Anethum graveolens

Introduced. Formerly more commonly grown as a herb and not recorded recently, but may occasionally be found were self-sown from garden waste or possibly from bird seed. Flowers July to August. A small, annual, typically to around 60cm in height. Leaves three- to four-pinnate, cut very deeply into fine segments, hairless. Bracts and bracteoles absent; fruits oval and compressed dorsally. The whole plant is blue-green in colour and richly aniseed-scented.

Dill Dill Dill Dill
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Dill Dill Dill Dill
Bracteoles
Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Fruits