Assorted Umbellifers

Greater Burnet-saxifrage Rock Samphire Ground-elder Coriander

What are they?

Members of the umbellifer family (Apiaceae) are a familiar sight in the countryside and this page deals with umbellifers that don't fit into the other groups covered on this site. Their fruits tend not to be strongly flattened, are not greatly elongated and are typically smooth. 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 grasslands, farmland, roadsides, waste ground, coastal sites 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.



Ground-elder      Aegopodium podagraria

Introduced as a herbal treatment and now widespread and common in mostly urban and suburban environments. Well known to gardeners as an almost indestructible weed! Flowers May to June. Flowering stems to 1.2m in height but more typically to 60cm. Leaves one to two-pinnate, forming an extensive, creeping mat from spreading rhizomes; bracts and bracteoles absent; fruits 3-4mm long, ovoid, slightly compressed and with neat ridges on the corners.

Ground-elder Ground-elder Ground-elder Ground-elder
Habit
Flowers
Bracts
Bracteoles
Ground-elder Ground-elder Ground-elder
Leaves
Leaf
Fruits


Fool's Parsley      Aethusa cynapium

Introduced. Widespread on heavier and enriched soils on arable land, gardens and allotments. Flowers June to November. Flowering stems to 1.2m in height but often much less. Leaves two to three-pinnate, rich, deep green in colour; bracts absent, bracteoles 3-4 on the outer side of the flower clusters, very long and hanging vertically when the flowers are mature - very distinctive; fruits 2.5-4mm long, ovoid, like little rugby balls and with prominent ridges.

Fool's Parsley Fool's Parsley Fool's Parsley Fool's Parsley
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Fool's Parsley Fool's Parsley Fool's Parsley
Bracts & Bracteoles
Leaf
Fruits


Common Pignut      Conopodium majus

Native. Widespread in unimproved grassland habitats such as old parkland, open woodland and churchyards. Flowers May to June. Flowering stems 30-60cm in height. Leaves two to three-pinnate, very finely cut into narrow segments; bracts 0-2, bracteoles 2-5; fruits 2.5-4.5mm long, ovoid to oblong with fine ridges.

Common Pignut Common Pignut Common Pignut Common Pignut
Habit
Flowers
Bracts & Bracteoles
Leaves


Common Burnet-saxifrage      Pimpinella saxifraga

Native. Widespread in unimproved grassland habitats especially, roadsides and churchyards on chalkier soils. Flowers July to August. Flowering stems 30-60cm in height. Lower leaves very variable, from once-pinnate with coarsely-toothed margins to two-pinnate and deeply cut; upper leaves two- to three-pinnate, finely cut into narrow segments; bracts and bracteoles absent; fruits 2-3mm long, globular, slightly flattened and shiny with slender ridges.

Common Burnet-saxifrage Common Burnet-saxifrage Common Burnet-saxifrage
Habit
Flowers
Bracts
Common Burnet-saxifrage Common Burnet-saxifrage Common Burnet-saxifrage Common Burnet-saxifrage
Leaf
Leaf
Leaf
Fruits


Greater Burnet-saxifrage      Pimpinella major

Native. A scarce species in East Anglia; absent from Norfolk (except where introduced at Wheatfen) and scattered on chalky roadsides in the south and west of the region. Flowers July to August. Flowering stems to 1.2m in height. Leaves typically one-pinnate, quite coarsely toothed at the margins; bracts and bracteoles absent; fruits 3-4mm long, oval, slightly flattened and with very fine ridges.

Greater Burnet-saxifrage Greater Burnet-saxifrage Greater Burnet-saxifrage Greater Burnet-saxifrage
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Greater Burnet-saxifrage Greater Burnet-saxifrage Greater Burnet-saxifrage
Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Fruits


Stone Parsley      Sison amomum

Native. Quite widespread on chalky clay soils throughout south Norfolk and central Suffolk, especially on grassy verges and under hedges. Flowers July to September. Flowering stems to one metre in height, the whole plant with a strong petroleum smell if rubbed. Leaves one to two-pinnate, quite coarsely toothed or lobed at the margins; bracts 2-4, bracteoles 2-4; fruits small, 1.5-3mm long, broadly oval, slightly flattened and with neat fine ridges. This is a very fine and spindly species that is easy to overlook.

Stone Parsley Stone Parsley Stone Parsley Stone Parsley
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Bracts
Stone Parsley Stone Parsley Stone Parsley Stone Parsley
Bracteoles
Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Fruits


Rock Samphire      Crithmum maritimum

Native. In the UK this is predominantly a species of rocky coasts and is consequently rather rare in East Anglia, but it can be found on stabilised shingle in Suffolk, becoming more frequent southward and into Essex. Flowers June to August. Low growing and forming spreading mats. Leaves two- to three-pinnate, succulent and fleshy, glaucous; bracts 5-10, bracteoles 6-8; fruits 3.5-5mm long, elliptical with prominent ridges.

Rock Samphire Rock Samphire Rock Samphire Rock Samphire
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Rock Samphire Rock Samphire Rock Samphire
Bracteoles
Leaves
Leaf


Bullwort      Ammi majus

Introduced. Reported a handful of times from around the region as an accidental introduction, perhaps from spilt birdseed or in imported grain. More recently, this species has been grown in 'wildflower mixes' and occasional plants may pop up in urban environments as a result of self seeding into neighbouring areas. Flowers June to October. Flowering stems to one metre in height. Leaves one to two-pinnate; bracts numerous, cut deeply to the veins and deeply forked; bracteoles with long, slender tips and white, winged margins at the base; fruits 1.5-2mm long, elliptical with slender but prominent ridges.

Bullwort Bullwort Bullwort Bullwort
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bullwort Bullwort Bullwort
Bracts
Bracteoles
Leaf


Toothpick-plant      Visnaga daucoides

Introduced. Reported a handful of times from around the region as an accidental introduction, perhaps from spilt birdseed or in imported grain. More recently, this species has been grown in 'wildflower mixes' and occasional plants may pop up in urban environments as a result of self seeding into neighbouring areas. Flowers June to October. Flowering stems to one metre in height but often much less. Lower leaves once-pinnate, upper leaves much smaller, two to four-pinnate and deeply cut into linear segments; bracts numerous, cut deeply to the veins and deeply forked; bracteoles narrowly tapered to a fine point; fruits 2-2.5mm long, oval with slender ridges.

Bullwort Bullwort Bullwort
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bullwort Bullwort Bullwort
Leaf
Fruting head
Fruits


Coriander      Coriandrum sativum

Introduced. An annual formerly occurring occasionally as an accidental introduction or throw-out from spilt grain or birdseed but also grown for culinary purposes. Flowers June to August. Flowering stems 30-60cm in height. Flowers with strongly asymetrical petals. Lower leaves with broad leaflets rather like celery in appearance and used for flavouring as Cilantro; upper leaves two- to four-pinnate, finely cut into narrow segments; bracts absent, bracteoles 4-6; fruits 2-3mm long, globular, with the two halves not separating freely.

Coriander Coriander Coriander Coriander
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts & Bracteoles
Coriander Coriander Coriander Coriander
Lower leaf
Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Fruits


Longleaf      Falcaria vulgaris

Introduced. Occasionally appears as a short-lived plant in grassy and rough places but well established in Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire. Flowers July to September. Flowering stems 30-90cm in height. Leaves two to three-pinnate, blue-green in colour and with distinctive, winged segments with saw-toothed margins; bracts 4-15, bracteoles 4-15; fruits 3-4mm long, oblong, flattened and grooved.

Longleaf Longleaf Longleaf
Habit
Leaves
Leaf