Unusual Umbellifers

Field Eryngo Greater Masterwort Sea-holly Sea-holly

What are they?

These species are rather unusual members of the umbellifer family (Apiaceae) and certainly bear little resemblance to the typical carrots, parsnips and the like that are so typical of the family. The eryngos are herbaceous perennials that have oval-shaped heads of small, densely packed flowers and often prickly-edged leaves. Masterworts are also herbaceous perennials with tight heads of small flowers, but their flowers have a ruff of petal-like bracts beneath them and their leaves are palmately lobed.

Where are they found?

This is a diverse group with a range of habitat choices, but most are non-natives that are most often found as garden escapes on roadsides or rough ground. The exception is Sea-holly, which is a native plant of sandy or stable shingle beaches and dunes.

Identification

This is a fairly easy group to identify, although the flowerheads of eryngos might get confused with teasels. However, careful noting of the basal and upper leaves in combination with the flower colour should enable an identification.



Sea-holly      Eryngium maritimum

Native. Found on coastal sand and shingle along low-lying coastlines. Flowers June to September. Forms a low, blue-green, spiky bush with holly-like leaves.

Sea-holly Sea-holly Sea-holly Sea-holly
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Leaves


Blue Eryngo      Eryngium planum

Introduced as a garden ornamental. Sets seed readily and occasionally appears as a pavement or roadside weed. Flowers August to September. Flowering stems to 1.2m in height. Basal leaves coarsely toothed and with wavy margins. Upper leaves narrower and spiny.

Blue Eryngo Blue Eryngo
Basal leaves
Basal leaves


Field Eryngo      Eryngium campestre

An ancient introduction but now considered extinct in East Anglia. May still re-appear as an escape from cultivation or self-sown from spilt seed. Flowers July to August. Basal leaves coarsely toothed and lobed and strongly blue-green in colour. Upper leaves narrower and spiny. Flowering stems many-branched, forming a bushy dome that's typically as wide as high.

Field Eryngo Field Eryngo Field Eryngo Field Eryngo
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Basal leaves


Greater Masterwort      Astrantia major

Introduced as a garden ornamental. Occasionally found as a garden escape on rough ground or roadsides or where garden waste is dumped. Flowers May to July. A perennial, herbaceous plant, typically growing to 50-60cm in height. Tiny flowers carried in tight clusters and surrounded at the base with a 'ruff' of pink or white, petal-like bracts.

Greater Masterwort Greater Masterwort Greater Masterwort Greater Masterwort
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Basal leaves