The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Friend or foe?

Whenever I see cow-parsley it makes me smile: this plant's delicate flowers, reminiscent of lace, seem at odds with its ugly-sounding name.

Wild chervil, as it is also known, can be found all over the British Isles, along hedgerows and roadside verges.  At this time of year, thousands of tiny white umbrellas can be seen down our country lanes.

These flowers look so fragile and harmless - and the plant is in fact edible. If indeed it is cow parsley you are picking.

The family of plants of which cow parsley is a part - known as umbellifers - also contains a less friendly and far more harmful species: poison hemlock.

Poison hemlock can be deadly to both humans and livestock if ingested and looking at these images, I wouldn't like to try to tell the difference. I couldn't even say with certainty if my photographs are cow parsley and not hemlock. 

Advice for telling the two apart suggests crushing some of the leaves - the hemlock will smell musty, like the smell associated with mice. The hemlock is also likely to be a taller plant than the parsley and there are likely to be purplish blotches on its smooth stem. 

As with any wild plant, unless you are absolutely certain, it is best to be avoided. 

2 musings:

the Lola Letters said...

I ate these all the time as a child!!
Ah, memories...

Good times.

faerwillow said...

~your second photo is FABULOUS!! a dainty little post you have written...warm wishes and brightest blessings~

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