Apiaceae – Carrot or Parsley Family
With about 75 genera occurring across North America, members of Apiaceae contain aromatic volatile oils and are used worldwide as spices or food.[i] Edible Apiaceae include anise, caraway, carrots, celery, cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley, and parsnips. In the Willamette Valley, the carrot-like roots of the genera Lomatium were also traditionally harvested for eating.[ii] Despite harboring so many digestible varieties though, Apiaceae also contains some of North America’s most toxic plants. Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), originally native to Eurasia, is an introduced weed and one of the most poisonous temperate species. Famously, this is what the ancient Greeks used to execute the philosopher Socrates.[iii] Toxic natives species are Cicuta maculata (spotted hemlock, spotted cowbane, or suicide root) as well as Cicuta bulbifera (bulb-bearing water hemlock). Another common native in the Willamette Valley, Heracleum lanatum (cow parsnip), contains furanocoumarin, an organic chemical compound that causes severe dermatitis that becomes increasingly painful with sun exposure.[iv]
Members of Apiaceae can be identified by their pinnately or palmately dissected leaves that have distinct sheathing where the leaf base connects to the stem. Carrots have tiny flowers, all have five sepals, five petals, and five stamens. Styles are more or less swollen at the base, forming a nectar secreting “stylopodium” structure atop the ovary.[v] Inferior ovaries are comprised of two carpels that mature into a schizocarp that splits into one seeded “mericarps” when dry.[vi] Inflorescences are arranged as compound umbels – each looking like the ribs of an umbrella turned inside out (thus the old family name, Umbelliferae[vii]). Individual flower stems (petioles) radiate out from a single point at the tip of the inflorescence stalk. Some genera have singular inflorescence heads, whereas others develop multiple umbels arranged along a raceme, spike, or panicle.[viii]
Eryngium petiolatum – Coyote Thistle
Species Code: ERPE
Habit: Spiny, perennial forb, glaucous (pale blue-green) color, 15 to 50 centimeters tall, and abundantly branched from base.[ix]
Stems: Stems are widely spreading with many smaller branches growing off of the central stem.. Where branching occurs at nodes, conspicuous membranous sheaths present.[x]
Leaves: Basal leaves are narrow and lance-shaped with sharply incised, spiny edges and long segmented petioles. Early developing (first) basal leaves are morphologically unique from the rest of the plant, developing into long, straight, erect hollow tubes with Spatulate-like tips armed with sharply-toothed margins. Upper leaves are oppositely arranged with lanceolate blades that grow up to 1 centimeter wide, with margins ranging from almost entire to spinulose-serrate.[xi]
Flowers: Many small, white to greenish flowers, clustered in stalk-less heads that are almost lost in cluster of bluish-green, spikey spheres. A circle of prickly bracts just below the flower heads adds to this plant’s thistle-like appearance.
Fruits: 2 mm long, flat fruits are green and scaly, maturing in early Fall.[xii]
Ecology: Obligate Wetland Plant, especially common in vernal pools or seasonally flooded depressions that dry out by mid-summer in the Willamette Valley.[xiii]
Notes: Can appear to some as more thistles-like (an Aster) rather a member of the carrot family. Listed by the U.S. Federal Government as “Threatened” in the state of Washington.[xiv]
Lomatium bradshawii – Bradshaw’s Desert Parsley (Bradshaw’s Lomatium)
Species Code: LOBR
Habit: A low-growing perennial forb ranging from 8 to 20 inches tall. Leaves and peduncles (flower stalks) grow from and a long, narrow taproot.[xv]
Leaves: Bright green, basal leaves are fine textured (almost feathery) and ternate (divided in threes), then further pinnately dissected into long, linear segments ranging from ½ to 1 ½ centimeters long. About 10 to 15 centimeters long, leaves have equally long (or longer) petioles (stalks).[xvi]
Flowers: Plants have several inflorescences comprised of 7 to 16 compound umbels on long peduncles ranging from 15 to 60 centimeters tall. The rays of each are uneven, giving inflorescences an overall irregular shape. At the end of each ray is a mini-umbel cluster of small, lemon yellow flowers surrounded by tiny leafy green bracts.
Fruits: Glabrous, oblong, dry fruits are 1 to 1 ½ centimeters in length and 5 to 7 millimeters wide with corky, thickened, lateral wings.[xvii]
Ecology: Facultative (FAC), grows on low, moist ground.[xviii]
Notes: Lomatium bradshawii is listed by the U.S. Federal Government as “Endangered” in the states of Oregon and Washington.[xix] Habitat loss from agricultural, commercial, and residential development is a continued threat to Bradshaw’s Desert Parsley. Encroachment by woody plants and competition from fast-growing invasives challenge this species’ survival.[xx]
Lomatium nudicaule – Bare Stem Biscuitroot
Species Code: LONU
Habit: Glabrous (smooth), glaucous (blueish-green) perennial with oval shaped, basal leaves, stout taproot, and very tall umbel inflorescences that can reach 2.5 to 7 dm tall.[xxi]
Leaves: Distinctively blue-green in color, the compound leaves of this plant are ovate and basal. Leaflets have entire margins, or sometimes a very slight lobe towards their apex. Firm and leathery in texture, compound leaves are first divided into 3’s, then further branched with five or more smaller leaflets 15 to 90 millimeters in length with long pedicels (stems).[xxii]
Flowers: Lomatium nudicale have conspicuous, tall peduncle stalks leading to a large umbel of 10 to 20 strong rays 1-20 cm long. Individual flowers within the inflorescence have yellow corollas and 3 to 15 millimeter long pedicels.[xxiii]
Fruits: Oblong to elliptic and 7 to 15 mm long, these flattened seeds are extremely fragrant – smelling somewhat like celery – with broad wings with distinct ribs. The light sides and dark center stripe of these dry achenes somewhat cresemble sunflower seeds in appearance.[xxiv]
Ecology: Facultative Upland Species, occurs and survives in dry uplands, but in the Willamette Valley found in wetland prairies.[xxv]
Notes: A very fragrant plant, this species smells strongly of celery. When dry, its flowers may be confused with that of Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum), a toxic member of Apiaceae common to these ecosystems. However, they are distinguishable by Cow Parsnip’s large palmate leaves and stout, hairy stem.[xxvi]
Heraculeum maximum – Cow Parsnip
© 2000 Bruce Newhouse
[i] Simpson, M., Plant Systematics 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, MA. 2010.
[ii] Boyd, Robert. Ed. 1999. Strategies of Indian Burning in the Willamette Valley. In Indians, Fire, and the Land in the Pacific Northwest, pp. 94-138. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis.
[iv] Hvass, E. Plants That Feed and Serve Us. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1975
[v] Dr. Bitty Roy, Systematic Botany Lecture Notes, 2012
[vi] Elpel, T. J., Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. HOPS Press, 2004. 115
[vii] Elpel, T. J., Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. HOPS Press, 2004 115
[viii] Bitty Roy 2012, Lecture Notes
[ix] Guard, J. (1995). Wetland Plants of Oregon and Washington. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta.
[x] City of Eugene, Seed Collection Manual, Eryngium petiolatum, 2009
[xi] Guard, J. (1995). Wetland Plants of Oregon and Washington. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta.
[xii] City of Eugene, Seed Collection Manual, Eryngium petiolatum, 2009
[xiii] USDA Plants Database: <https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ERPE7>
[xiv] USDA Plants Database: <https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ERPE7>
[xv] Guard, J. (1995). Wetland Plants of Oregon and Washington. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta.117
[xvii] Hitchock 327
[xviii] USDA Plants Database: <https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LOBR>
[xix] USDA Plants Database: <https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LOBR>
[xxi] Turner, M., and P. Gustafson. 2006. Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
[xxii] Gilkey 292
[xxiii] Pell, Susan. A Botanist’s Vocabulary. Timber Press, Portland, OR, 2016. 148
[xxiv] City of Eugene, Parks Seed Collection Manual, Lomatium nudicale, 2009.
[xxv] USDA Plants Database: <https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LONU>
[xxvi] City of Eugene, Parks Seed Collection Manual, Lomatium nudicale, 2009.