Anthriscus sylvestris (Wild Chervil)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cow Parsley
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:biennial, short-lived perennial
Origin:Europe, Asia
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; average to moist soil; roadsides, trail edges, agricultural fields, woodland edges
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Several flat clusters (umbels) at the top of the plant and arising from leaf axils in the upper plant. Umbels are 1 to 3 inches across, made up of 4 to 15 smaller clusters (umbellets), each with 20+ 1/8-inch white flowers. Individual flowers have 5 petals, slightly notched at the tip, 5 stamens and a greenish white center. Flowers around the perimeter of an umbellet typically have an enlarged petal on the outer edge.

[photo of umbellet bracts] Around the base of an umbellet are 5 to 8 conspicuous, tear-drop shaped bracts that are hairy along the edges. The main umbels lack bracts, though a small leaf resembling a bract may be at the base of the umbel stalk. Umbellet stalks are all similar in length, as are flower stalks. Stalks are hairless to sparsely hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed

[photo of lower leaves] Leaves are 2 or 3 times compound, up to 8 inches long and wide, egg-shaped to triangular in outline. Leaflets are up to 2 inches long, divided and fern-like, dark green and somewhat shiny on the upper surface, short-hairy on the lower surface. Basal and lower leaves are largest and long stalked, becoming smaller, less divided and stalkless as they ascend the stem, with the leaves at the base of umbel stalks reduced to bracts.

[photo of hairy sheath] Stem leaves are sheath-like where the stalk joins the stem, the sheath ribbed and hairy, more densely hairy along the ribs. Stems are multiple from the base, branched, ribbed, and short-hairy especially on the lower plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of developing fruit] Fruits are narrowly egg-shaped, slightly flattened, up to about 3/8 inch (1cm) long, maturing from greenish to yellowish and finally black when mature. It splits into 2 seeds.

[close-up of fruit] Fruit surface is glossy and smooth, with 2 or 3 faint ribs. The remains of the style persists at the tip.


Wild Chervil was introduced into North America as an ornamental and a cooking herb; both the leaves and root are edible. Unfortunately most of these non-native members of the carrot family are prolific seed producers and can take advantage of human disturbances in the landscape to become invasive. In this regard, Wild Chervil joins the ranks of Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) a.k.a. Queen Anne's lace, Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), Caraway (Carum carvi), and Japanese Hedge-parsley (Torilis japonica). More will come, of that we are pretty certain.

Wild Chervil has not been widely collected in Minnesota but has likely just been overlooked, lost in the sea of Queen Anne's Lace and other white carrot species spreading along roadsides across the state. Wild Chervil is most easily distinguished by its hairy leaves, hairy ribbed sheaths and stems, the 5 to 8 tear-drop shaped bracts at the base of an umbellet, the main umbels lacking bracts, and the smooth fruits that ripen to shiny black. The fern-like leaves are most similar to Poison Hemlock and Japanese Hedge-parsley. Poison Hemlock is generally a larger plant, has a smooth stem variably covered in purple spots, and fruit covered in wavy ribs. Japanese Hedge-parsley has stiff appressed hairs on leaves and stems, 2 to a few linear bracts at the base of umbels, and hooked hairs on its fruit.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota and Marshall counties.


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