The genus Sium Linnaeus and Sium suave Walter

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

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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 Apiaceae family.

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 Renaissance.

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 the stems.

Common names

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:


Sium suave is identified and distinguished from similar members of the Apiaceaefamily by its: It is very similar to Cicuta maculata but lacks the purplish mottling on the stem, and the leaflet veins ending in notches. It is a bit similar to Daucus carota, but the later grows in dry areas. It is also a bit similar to Cicuta bulbifera, but the later has fine feathery leaves. draw_a.jpg can't be loaded.






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 roadside ditches.


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.

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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.

Plants, stem

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Fruits, seeds

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