Anthriscus sylvestris (L.) Hoffmann

Page in development; left as a marker. Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

jun_07_10.gthmb can't be loaded. Anthriscus sylvestris is a herbaceous biennial short-lived perennial plant. It is native to Europe, western Asia and northwestern Africa; in the south of its range in the Mediterranean region, it is limited to higher altitudes. It is an introduced adventive in various locations in eastern United States and a few places in Washington; it has been introduced in the Montréal area around the 1920; it is now naturalized. Anthriscus sylvestris probably arrived in North America as a component of British wildflower seed mixes which were used to recreate the floral meadows of Britain.

The plant has a hollow, glabrous to sparsely soft-hairy stem, at times purple; it grows to a height of between 60 to 170 cm, branching to umbels of small white flowers. The plant grows from a a thick, tuberous taproot that can extend over 6 feet into the soil and spread rapidly.

Anthriscus sylvestris is a very variable species and some botanists split the species into four subspecies:

The number of chromosomes of Anthriscus sylvestris (2n) is 16. The species belongs to the Apiaceae family.


Anthriscus: from the Greek and Latin name for another but unidentified plant In classical Greek, ανθρυσκον (anthryskon) is referred to by Athenaeus, of Naucratis in Egypt, a Greek rhetorician and grammarian who flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD. He wrote the Deipnosophistae, an immense store-house of information. The plant has been tentatively identified as Anthriscus sylvestris. In Latin, Anthriscum is referred to by Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder), 23 AD - 70 AD (he died on August 25, AD 79 during the famed eruption of Mount Vesuvius that also destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum), he was a naturalist and naval and military commander; he refers to the plant Anthriscum in his Naturalis Historia (Natural History) (21, 89) and has been identified as some sort of plant !

In Latin, one of the meaning of sylvestris, most often written silvestris is that leaves in forests; that is somewhat the case of Anthriscus sylvestris although it is also found in abandoned fields, agricultural fields, edges, open disturbed areas, pastures, yards or gardens.

Common names

Some of the vernacular names of Anthriscus sylvestris in North America are Cow Parsley, Wild Chervil, Beak-chervil, Wild Beaked Parsley, and Keck. Its French names are Anthrisque des bois, Persil sauvage and Chérophylle sauvage.

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Anthriscus sylvestris has also been known as:


Anthriscus sylvestris is identified by its: Anthriscus sylvestris can be mistaken for the similar-looking Conium maculatum (Poison hemlock) and Aethusa cynapium (Fool's parsley) that are both poisonous, though the later is less so than the former; but the leaves of Aethusa cynapium are less divided than those of Anthriscus sylvestris and the fruits of Conium maculatum are globular not oblong as the fruits of Anthriscus sylvestris.

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Each plant has both hermaphrodite and male flowers, often with a ratio of 4 male flowers to one hermaphrodite flower. Each hermaphrodite flower produces 2 joined seeds with small antenna-like structures at the top.



Anthriscus sylvestris grows under a range of conditions but thrives in wet-to-moist disturbed sites, especially where soils are rich; it is found in sunny to semi-shaded locations in meadows and at the edges of hedgerows and woodland. It is a particularly common sight by the roadside.


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Anthriscus sylvestris distributed in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and midwestern states of the USA. It is found as far south as Tennessee and North Carolina. It is also located in the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. In Canada, it is found in British Columbia in the west and in Ontario, Québec, Newfoundland and Nova-Scotia in the East. It has been reported in all of the states of New England. It appears to be most problematic in central Vermont. It should carry on spreading. The maps shows (up to 2008) the USA states and Canadian provinces where the plant can be found.


Anthriscus sylvestris can reproduce both by seed and by vegetative means. Vegetatively, it makes use of aggressive, fast spreading taproots that have lateral root buds capable of sprouting new plants.

Anthriscus sylvestris is sufficiently common and fast-growing to be considered a nuisance weed in gardens. Its ability to grow rapidly through rhizomes and to produce large quantities of seeds in a single growing season has made it an invasive species in many areas of the United States. The state of Vermont has listed Anthriscus sylvestris on its Watch List of invasive species while Massachusetts and Washington have banned the sale of the plant.

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It competes with pasture and hay crops and livestock will graze it only when it is young. It acts as a host for a viral disease that infects other plants in the same family, such as carrots, parsnips, and celery. It is difficult to control because of its very deep root system and tolerance to herbicides. Since this weed is well adapted to ditches and moist woods, native riverbank plant communities are at risk.

Anthriscus sylvestris is considered to be edible, though having a somewhat unpleasant flavour, sharper than Anthriscus cerefolium (Garden Chervil), with a hint of Daucus carota (The Carrot).

Anthriscus sylvestris is rumored to be a natural mosquito repellent when applied directly to the skin. However it can be confused with Giant Hogweed (Giant Hogweed), the sap of which can cause severe burns after coming in contact with the skin.


The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following: Minolta DiMAGE 7, Canon PowerShot A530, Canon Xt Rebel, usually with the EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM objective, Fujifilm A 610 and EPSON Perfection 1650 (scanner).

The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken, i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day. The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter which I use to identify the system used to take the picture.

Click on the thumbnails to get larger view. The original photos are usually in TIFF format, the photos shown are generally in JPEG format, often of dimensions one half (surface one quarter) for loading time reduction.


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Leaves, stems

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Inflorescence, flowers

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