Umbellifers with Rough or Hairy Fruits

Common Carrot Upright Hedge-parsley Hemlock Giant Hogweed

What are they?

Members of the umbellifer family (Apiaceae) are a familiar sight in the countryside and this page covers species that have fruits that are either hairy on their surface, or which bear spikes, hooks or bristles. 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?

The plants on this page have a wide range of habitat preferences, so the habitat they are found in can be an aid towards identification. Habitat preference is detailed under each species.

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 type of hairs, prickles or hooks) 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 Carrot      Daucus carota

Native. Common to abundant in a wide range of grassy habitats. Also introduced as a component of wildflower seed mixes. Flowers June to September. Leaves two- to three-pinnate, hairy to varying degrees; bracts 7-13, long and multi-forked; bracteoles 7-10, narrowly linear; fruits oval with ridges that bare spines. This is a rather variable species as there are native as well as introduced and cultivated forms. A noteable feature of Wild Carrot is the development of a blackish or maroon-coloured, sterile floret at the centre of the mature flowerhead which is often (though not always) present. Coastal forms (Sea Carrot) are often noticeably large-fowered and may grow to a metre in height; their flowers do not contract at the fruiting stage but remain spreading. Cultivated Carrots typcially have orange, swollen tap roots (may be yellow or white in some varieties) and the spines on the fruits have star-like tips.

Common Carrot Common Carrot Common Carrot Common Carrot
Habit
Flowers
Dark central floret
Bracts
Common Carrot Common Carrot Common Carrot Common Carrot
Leaf
Stem
Fruiting head
Fruits


Bur Chervil      Anthriscus caucalis

Native. An annual plant, common to abundant on light, sandy soils. Flowers May to June. Leaves two- to three-pinnate, very finely cut and fern-like, with scattered hairs beneath; bracts 0-1, bracteoles 4-5; flower heads carried in small clusters opposite the leaves; fruits oval, narrower towards the tip and with a beaked tip; covered in hooked hairs. The fruits snag in animal fur (and human socks!) and the plant is commonly found around rabbit burrows, where the animals groom the fruits out of their fur.

Bur Chervil Bur Chervil Bur Chervil Bur Chervil
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bur Chervil Bur Chervil Bur Chervil
Leaves
Leaf
Fruits


Upright Hedge-parsley      Torilis japonica

Native. Widespread throughout the region along hedge bottoms, tracksides and woodland edge. Flowers July to August. Stems and flowers (in bud) often tinged purplish, though the flowers open white. Stems also have flattened, white hairs. Leaves one- to three-pinnate, the leaves with noticeably long-tapered tips; bracts 4-12, bracteoles 4-8; fruits oval, covered in curved but not hooked hairs. Typically flowers later in the year than the familiar Cow-parsley, which often grows in the same sites.

Upright Hedge-parsley Upright Hedge-parsley Upright Hedge-parsley Upright Hedge-parsley
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Flowers
Upright Hedge-parsley Upright Hedge-parsley Upright Hedge-parsley Upright Hedge-parsley
Bracts
Bracteoles
Leaf
Fruits


Spreading Hedge-parsley      Torilis arvensis

An old introduction, found as an arable weed on chalky soils. Once more common and widespread but now severely declined and Nationally listed as Endangered. Flowers July to August. Stems have flattened, white hairs and branches spread openly and widely. Leaves one- to two-pinnate, the leaves often with noticeably long-tapered tips, especially the upper ones; bracts 0-1, bracteoles 0-2; fruits oval, thickly covered in straight, minutely hook-tipped hairs.

Spreading Hedge-parsley Spreading Hedge-parsley Spreading Hedge-parsley Spreading Hedge-parsley
Habit
Flowers
Lower leaves
Lower leaves
Spreading Hedge-parsley Spreading Hedge-parsley
Upper leaf
Fruits


Knotted Hedge-parsley      Torilis nodosa

Native. Found in a few scattered, inland sites but most common on heavy-soiled, grassy banks around the coast regions. Recently also unexpectedly increasing (in Norfolk at least) as a weed of urban environments. Flowers May to July. Flowers in short-stalked, dense clusters opposite the leaves. Leaves one- to two-pinnate, the upper ones more tapered at the tips; bracts 1-3, bracteoles 1-3; fruits oblong to cylindrical with uneven pairs - only one of each pair of fruits bears white, spikey hairs. A small and inconspicuous species that is easily overlooked among grasses.

Knotted Hedge-parsley Knotted Hedge-parsley Knotted Hedge-parsley Knotted Hedge-parsley
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Lower leaves
Knotted Hedge-parsley Knotted Hedge-parsley Knotted Hedge-parsley Knotted Hedge-parsley
Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Fruits
Fruits


Small Bur-parsley      Caucalis platycarpos

Introduced. A rare casual as an impurity of imported grain; no recent records. Flowers June to July. Leaves two- to three-pinnate, largely hairless but often hairy at the base; bracts 1-3, bracteoles 1-3; fruits distinctive, with broad, winged ridges that bear long, hook-tipped spines.

Small Bur-parsley Small Bur-parsley
Leaf
Fruits


European Sanicle      Sanicula europaea

Native. Widespread in shady woodland on a range of soil types. Flowers May to August. Lower leaves shiny green, rounded and palmately lobed; bracts and bracteoles rather variable but typically rather short, sometimes leaf-like; fruits in a dense cluster on short stalks, covered in hook-tipped hairs. The flowerheads are rather different to most other umbellifers, bearing long primary stalks but then with the flowers tightly clustered in groups. Can be a difficult plant to spot in its preferred, shady locations.

European Sanicle European Sanicle European Sanicle
Habit
Habit
Flowers
European Sanicle European Sanicle
Lower leaves
Fruits


Tubular Water-dropwort      Oenanthe fistulosa

Native. Scattered throughout the region in a range of wetland habitats from ditch sides and wet river banks to wet fens and fen meadows but usually avoiding more brackish or salty habitats. Flowers July to September. Lower leaves three-pinnate, upper leaves once-pinnate, hairless; bracts absent, bracteoles 7-16 and typically rather short; fruits oval or cylindrical, typically broader at the top, each with two, persistent styles at the top which often give a spikey look to developing fruits. The upper stems and upper leaves are thin-walled and have large, central spaces that produce a distinctive, tubular effect. Note - there are other water-dropworts which may have a spikey look to their fruits due to the persistent styles; these can be found under Wetland Umbellifers.

Tubular Water-dropwort Tubular Water-dropwort Tubular Water-dropwort Tubular Water-dropwort
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Bracts
Tubular Water-dropwort Tubular Water-dropwort Tubular Water-dropwort Tubular Water-dropwort
Bracteoles
Submerged leaves
Upper leaf
Fruits


Hemlock      Conium maculatum

Native. A very common and widespread species, typically found in greatest abundance along the margins of channels and ditches in the Fens, but also common in drier, disturbed habitats and as a weed of hedgerows and field margins on nutrient-rich soil. Flowers June to July. Leaves two- to four-pinnate with fine 'ferny' segments, hairless; bracts 5-6, bracteoles 3-6; fruits globular with warty ridges. Despite being only an annual or biennial, plants may grow to 2.5m in height and often form dense colonies. Plants smell very strongly and distinctively of male mice; stems strongly purple-spotted and the whole plant is highly poisonous.

Hemlock Hemlock Hemlock Hemlock
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Hemlock Hemlock Hemlock Hemlock
Bracteoles
Stem
Leaf
Fruits


Moon Carrot      Seseli libanotis

Native. Extremely rare in the UK but persists at a chalk pit near Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire and has very rarely occurred as a garden weed from time to time. Flowers July to August. Leaves two- to three-pinnate, with short hairs; bracts 8-12, bracteoles 10-15; fruits oval, strongly ridged and softly hairy.

Moon Carrot Moon Carrot Moon Carrot Moon Carrot
Flowers
Flowers
Bracts
Stem
Moon Carrot Moon Carrot Moon Carrot
Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Fruits


Giant Hogweed      Heracleum mantegazzianum

Introduced. A potentially highly invasive species that grows at odd sites scattered throughout the region, most often in damp ground close to rivers or lakes. Flowers June to September. Stems massive, to five metres in height, with flowerheads like great cartwheels, bearing 40-50 rays. Lower leaves enormous, to 75cm x 65cm in size one- to two-pinnate, lightly hairy; fruits oval and strongly flattened, hairy and with four dark, linear glands that are thickest at the base. A controversial plant due to its invasive nature and its potent sap that can produce rupturing blisters if it gets into contact with the skin, especially during hot weather.

Giant Hogweed Giant Hogweed Giant Hogweed Giant Hogweed
Habit
In winter
Flowers
Flowers
Giant Hogweed Giant Hogweed Giant Hogweed Giant Hogweed
Lower leaves
Lower leaves
Stem
Fruits