Apiaceae: Carrot Family – Grassland and disturbed places

Most members of the Apiaceae (carrot) family are characterized by having their flowers arranged in umbels, i.e. with segments radiating from a single point.  Formerly, the family was called Umbelliferae.  Many have compound umbels.  That is when an umbel contains multiple inflorescences, each of which is itself an umbel.  Umbels may be rounded, flat-topped or concentrated in head-like structures.  Most members of the family have white flowers.  Fennel, Lomatiums, most Sancicles and Tauschia all have yellow flowers.  This page includes some weeds commonly seen along trails, a few growing up to 3 meters tall.

Poison Hemlock – Conium maculatum

Blooms:

Apr–July

Plant Height:

0.5–3 m

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Europe

Invasive?

Yes – moderate

Habitat:

Moist & disturbed places

Notes:

Highly toxic; the same plant that was used by the ancient Greeks to kill Socrates. The leaves are generally 2-pinnate and highly cut leaves. Eating even a few of the leaves can be fatal. Mature plants usually have red speckles on their stems (known as “Socrates’ blood”) — a distinctive feature which allows this plant to be distinguished from some of the other members of its family. If in doubt, do not eat it.

Queen Anne’s Lace / Wild Carrot – Daucus carota

Blooms:

May–Sept

Plant Height:

15–120 cm

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Roadsides, disturbed places

Notes:

The general appearance is not unlike Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum, see above).  However, the pure white inflorescence is frequently hemispheric and/or has a small dark red, almost black, dot in the center.  According to legend, this represents the blood drawn when the English Queen Anne (1703–20) pricked her finger while making lace.  The stems lack the red blotches characteristic of Poison Hemlock.  The flowers are subtended by conspicuous bracts divided into long, linear to thread-like segments.

Rattlesnake Weed – Daucus pusillus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

3–90 cm

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry slopes, many communities

Notes:

A close relative of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota, see above) despite a very different appearance.  This is a small plant, with a dense inflorescence of white to pink-tinged flowers, immediately subtended by conspicuous, leaf-like bracts.  Bristly stems.

Coast Eryngo / Coastal Button-celery – Eryngium armatum

Blooms:

May–Aug

Stem length:

10–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Coastal flats

Notes:

A low-growing, somewhat thistle-like, plant with thick green to yellow-green leaves, each long and straight. There are stout stems bearing spiky flower heads. Each is surrounded by 1 or 2 layers of sharp bracts. The tiny white to greenish flowers are tucked between the layers of bracts.

Sweet Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare

Blooms:

May–Sept

Plant Height:

0.9–2.1 m

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Southern Europe

Invasive?

Yes – High

Habitat:

Roadsides & waste places

Notes:

Immediately recognizable by its compound umbels of bright yellow flowers, and byits delicate, finely pinnate, thread-like leaves.  Both leaves and seeds have an unmistakable anise taste. Photos #3 and 4 by Cliff Halverson.

Fennel, Sweet
Fennel, Sweet

Cow Parsnip / Giant Hogweed – Heracleum maximum

Blooms:

Apr–July

Plant Height:

1–3 m

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Moist, open or wooded places

Notes:

A large plant,  distinguished by its very large, coarsely lobed leaves (as much as  50 cm wide) and the wide sheaths at the base of each petiole. The inflorescence is an umbel of dull, white flowers, each with 5 notched petals.

Gairdner’s Yampah – Perideridia gairdneri subsp. gairdneri

Blooms:

June–Aug

Plant Height:

30–140 cm

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Native

Rare or Endangered?

Yes – 4.2

Habitat:

Coastal flats, grassland & pine forest

Notes:

Slender, erect stem. Leaves near the base of the plant have blades up to 35 cm long, divided into many narrow, subdivided lobes. Upper leaves are smaller and less divided. Leaves are usually withered by flowering time. Late-flowering plants have been seen into October.  The inflorescence is a compound umbel with 7–14 unequal rays with 0–2 bracts at its base. Each of the secondary umbels has 15–40 flowers and 8–13 bractlets. The ovary is inferior with a +/- persistent conical projection subtending two 1–2 mm, slender styles. The fruit is roundish, as broad as long.

Kellogg’s Yampah – Perideridia kelloggii

Blooms:

July–Aug

Plant Height:

70–150 cm

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Moist, open or wooded places

Notes:

The inflorescence is umbel-shaped, and there are 8–10 brown bracts and up to 10 bractlets.  This is a stouter plant than Gairdner’s Yampah (Perideridia gairdneri, see above), with noticeable fibrous roots and fully sheathed stems, down to the divided basal leaves.  Also helping differentiate it from Gairdner’s Yampah are the bracts, and elliptic/oblong fruit with short stubby stigmas.

Oregon Yampah – Perideridia oregana

Blooms:

July–Aug

Plant Height:

10–90 cm

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Moist meadows & rocky slopes, Southeast Monterey

Notes:

Smaller than Gairdner’s or Kellogg’s Yampah (Perideridia gairdneri or kelloggii, see above).  Also, it is distinguished by its slimmer, oblong fruits, the number of its bracts (generally 6–10 but sometimes as few as 0–2) and fewer bractlets (4–8).  Styles are narrow and reflexed.