Our native Cow Parsley has a sophisticated form, with delicate, open, white lacy umbels that from mid-spring to early summer look as though they're erupting from a well shaken champagne bottle.
In spring, as the roadsides and hedgerows become profuse with fresh, verdant foliage, the delicate, feathery, white flowers of Cow Parsley crown the greenery as the days become warmer.
Anthriscus sylvestris is most characteristic of hedgerows and road verges but also found on woodland edges and in neglected pastures and hay meadows. Cow parsley is intolerant of very wet or very dry soils and sites that are heavily grassed or managed. This tall umbellifer has hollow stems which often become purple with age and fresh green, sharply-cut pinnate leaves. The flowers are followed by smooth dark seeds.
They are perfect for wilder areas where soft blowsy planting is needed and are most at home is a wild garden or meadow, and an effective companion to ornamental grasses.
Sowing: Sow outdoors in September to February or May to June.
Seed dormancy is broken by a period of chilling and therefore sowing should occur in late summer to spring. The best location for this sowing is the open field, the cold frame or a cold greenhouse. Plants can be sown indoors, but direct sowing is preferable. As with most of the Umbelliferae/Apiaceae (Carrot) family, they have a long taproot which can be damaged when transplanting.
Sow directly where they are to grow, as, with its long taproot, this plant does not transplant well. Surface sow to no more than 1mm (1/8in) deep. Sow thinly in drills 30cm (12in) apart in well-cultivated soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Lightly cover seed. Water ground regularly, especially in dry periods. Germination will normally occur in 8 to 10 weeks dependent on temperatures. When large enough to handle, thin out seedlings to 45cm (18in) apart.
For use as a cut flower, support with brushwood or link stakes before the flowers appear. Do not plant in areas where carrot seed is produced because it hybridizes with the crop and ruins the seed
Cow Parsley is a biennial plant; it takes two years to flower from seed. It puts on leaves, stems and roots during the first year and then flowers the following summer. Once they have flowered they die. These plants will self seed freely unless you remove the spent flower heads. If you do not want it to self seed, once flowering is over and before seed production starts, cut it back to just above ground level.
Like many of our native plants, Anthriscus sylvestris is truly beautiful in a wildflower meadow, but does self seed readily. For the flower garden there is also a similar option, the annual named Ammi majus. It is the flower common in the cut flower trade as "Queen Anne's Lace", and is also sometimes called "Bishop's Flower."
Hedgerows, Wood margins, Meadows, Orchards. Woodland Garden, Dappled Shade, For naturalising.
White flowering umbels might be used in floral arrangements, the plant is eagerly eaten by herbivores, especially rabbits. A beautiful green dye is obtained from the leaves and stem but it is not very permanent. Children used hollow stems as pea shooters.
The collection of Cow Parsley leaves as a culinary herb must be undertaken with caution as it is possible to confuse the leaves with those of Hemlock, a very poisonous Umbel.
Anthriscus sylvestris is native to Europe, western Asia and north-western Africa; in the south of its range in the Mediterranean region, it is limited to higher altitudes.
‘Anthriscus’ is named after Theophrastus, a Greek native who was the successor of Aristotle. It was Theophrastus who first detected the process of germination and realized the importance of climate and soil to plants.
His two surviving botanical works, Enquiry into Plants and On the Causes of Plants, were an important influence on medieval science.
The species name 'sylvestris' is from the Latin for ‘of the woods’ and, so, a woodland plant but the application is often extended to mean a plant which grows in the wild.
A wealth of attractive and interesting colloquial common names adorns this species:
Cow Parsley may also be locally known as Wild Chervil, Moonlight Scab Flower, Gipsy Laces or Lady's Needlework. Also known as Queen Anne’s lace, it shares this common name with a number of plants.
Mother die, queque, blackman’s tobacco. Adder’s meat, rabbit meat, cowchervil, oldrot, gipsy curtains, gipsy flower, gipsy laces, gipsy’s umbrella, gipsy’s parsley, hare’s parsley, june flower, lady’s lace, scabs, (Som). Cow—weed, (Ess) . Honitan Lace, rabbit meat, (Dev). Needlework, (Glos). Coney parsley, rabbit meat, (Suss) . Devil’s oatmeal, (Surr) . Devil ‘s parsley, kadle dock, (Ches). Moonlight, (Wilts). Rabbit— food, (Bucks) Eldor, eltrot, my lady’s lace, Queen Anne’s lace, (Dor). Naughty man’s oatmeal, rabbit meat, sweet ash, (War). Magweed, (Wore). Sheep—parsley, (Kent, Norf). Cow mumble, (Ess, Camb, Norf).Kedlock, (Derb). Kelk, (Wilts, Suss, Kent, Surr, Yks, Dur, N’thum). Wild Parsley, (Lines, Rad).Cicely, (Derb, Lines). Badman’s oatmeal, bun, devil’s meat. cisweed. white meat, whiteweed, (Yks) . Kesk, linces, kewsies, scab flower, (Cumb). Ciss, (Lancs). Da—ho, keeshi.on, (N. Ire). Ha—ho, hi—how, (Ire) . Dell ‘s meat, (Scot). Wild Caraway, (Banff) . Dog’s carvi, (Shet). Handkjeks, dog’s keks, (Norway).
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 400 seeds Family Apiaceae Genus Anthriscus Species sylvestris Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Synonym Chaerophyllum sylvestre Common Name Gipsy Laces, Lady's Needlework.
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Common Names Queen Annes Lace, Moonlight Scab Flower, Wild Chervil Other Language Names IR. Peirsil bhó Hardiness Hardy Biennial Flowers Open, white lacy umbels. Natural Flower Time May to July. Height 60 to 170 cm Spread 45-60cm (18-24in) Position Full Sun/Partial Shade Soil Well drained soil Time to Sow Sow outdoors in September to February or May to June. Germination 8 to 10 weeks dependent on temperatures