The genus Sium Linnaeus
and Sium suave Walter
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
The genus Sium Linnaeus
Plants belonging to the Sium genus
are found in wet and marshy places.
There are 12 species in the genus
that are widely distributed in Eurasia, North America, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Four species are found in North America. but only one, Sium suave,
is found in Québec.
The genus belongs to the
Sium suave Walter
Sium suave is a native hardy
perennial of shallow water; it is from
3 to 6 feet tall. The stems are erect, slightly zig-zag in form but reclining
with age, branched, angular, smooth, strongly
ribbed upward, thickened, and hollow with cross-partitions at the base,
partitioned at the nodes above and rooting at lower node; the stem has a sweet
Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) fragrance. The roots are fibrous.
The chromosome number of the plant,
n is 6.
In classical Greek, σιον
(sion) has been identified as Sium latifolium, a plant found in
Europe and Siberia, thats grows in marshes and rivers.
It is referred to by Theocritus, (c. 300 - 250 B.C.) the creator of ancient
Greek bucolic poetry and by Dioscorides, the Greek physician, pharmacologist
and botanist from Anazarbus (Cilicia, Asia Minor) who practised in ancient Rome
during the time of Nero. He wrote one of the most influential herbal books in
history, Materia medica, a book that remained in use until the
In Latin, the Greek term became sion or sium and is cited by the
Roman naturalist Gaius Plinius Secundas (Pliny the Elder, AD 23 - August 24,
AD 79) in his Naturalis Historia (Natural History, 22,84; 26,88).
In Latin, the adjective suavis means sweet, nice, the
epithet referring to the sweet fragarnce of
Some of the vernacular names of
Sium suave are Fragrant Water Parsnip, Water-parsley and
Hemlock Water Parsnip.
The French vernacular name are Berle douce.
Sium suave has also been known as:
- Apium cicutifolium (Schrank) Benth. & Hook. f. ex F. B.
Forbes & Hemsl.
- Apium lineare (Michx.) Benth. & Hook.
- Sium carsonii Durand
- Sium cicutifolium Schrank
- Sium cicutifolium Schrank var. lineare (Michx.) H. Wolff
- Sium floridanum Small
- Sium formosanum Hayata
- Sium lineare Michx.
- Sium lineare Michx. var. intermedium Torr. & A. Gray
- Sium nipponicum Maxim.
- Sium suave Walter var. floridanum (Small) C.F. Reed
- Sium suave Walter forma carsonii (Durand) Fassett
- Sium suave Walter forma fasciculatum Fassett
- Sium suave Walter var. floridanum (Small) C. F. Reed
Sium suave is identified and distinguished from similar members of the
Apiaceaefamily by its:
It is very similar to
but lacks the purplish mottling on the stem,
and the leaflet veins ending in notches. It is a bit similar to
but the later grows in dry areas.
It is also a bit similar to
but the later has fine feathery leaves.
- broad, flat flower clusters;
- bracts subtending the primary
bracteoles subtending the secondary
rays of the inflorescence;
- hollow stem;
and font color = "darkorange4">pinnate leaves with
- odd pinnate,
divided into 11 to 15 leaflets
but the under water leaves divided into thread-like or linear segments;
- oblong to
ovate in outline;
- up to 50 cm long, reduced above;
- with a petiole up to 7 cm long,
- with leaflets:
- linear to
- with an acute
- tapering to base,
- sharply toothed, serrulate
- up to 5 inches long and 2 inches across;
- the terminal leaflet with a
petiolule up to 3 cm long.
- on terminal and
axillary compound umbels with 6 or
with ribbed and angled peduncles up
to 7 cm long;
- the primary rays up to 3.5 cm long;
- white or greenish-white;
- up to 2/3 inch across;
- with 5 free spreading petals, up to 1/3 inch long;
- with 5 green minute sepals,
at times absent;
- with 5 stamens alternating with
- with 2 very short styles;
- with an inferior ovary;
- blooming from july to September in my area,
25 km north of Montréal.
- oval to orbicular;
- obviously ribbed;
- up to 3 mm long;
- splitting into 2 seeds.
Sium suave is a wetland plant; it is found at the
edges of ponds and lakes, in shallow waters, often emergent; it is also found
in wet woods and thickets, in swamps, on muddy banks, on meadows, and in
Sium suave is found in most of North America. It is also found in
temperate Asia, in Easter Siberia : Amur, Kamchatka, Khabarovsk, Magadan,
Primorye and Sakhalin.
The map shows the Canadian Provinces and Territories as well as the USA states
where Sium suave can be found.
The stems and leaves of Sium suave are toxic and will kill livestock.
The plant was however used by native American tribes for medicinal reasons as
well as food.
The Iroquois used the plant as an
analgesic; they made an
infusion of smashed roots and applied it as
poultice for pain from broken limb.
They would also use the plant as Drug Anticonvulsive;
a compound decoction of roots was taken by their women for epilepsy.
The Lakotas used the roots as gastrointestinal aid.
The Ojibwas had an interesting use for the seeds; they were
smoked over a fire to drive away and blind evil spirit that steals away
one's hunting luck!
The Shuswaps considered that the white flowers were poisonous.
The Algonquins of Québec, the Shuswaps, the Okanagan-Colville
ate the roots; the Bella Coola and Carrier ate the tubers.
The Crees collected the roots in early spring or late fall, roasted them,
fried them or ate them raw.
The Klamaths and Montana ate the herb as relish since it has an aromatic flavor.
Herbage has an aromatic flavor and eaten as a relish.
The Thompsons dug the roots in the spring and fall, washed them,
pit cooked them and dried them for later use.
The Lakota children used the stems for whistles.
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.
The leaves were scanned at 150 dpi,
this allows to measure the dimensions of the leaves.