Cow Parsley

©Philip Precey

Cow parsley

Scientific name: Anthriscus sylvestris
The umbrella-like clusters of white, frothy flowers of cow parsley are a familiar sight along roadsides, hedgerows and woodland edges. It is also called 'Queen Anne's Lace'.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 1m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

May to June

About

Cow parsley is a hollow-stemmed, tall plant that grows rapidly in the summer before dying back. It likes shady habitats in particular, and can be found decorating woodland edges, roadside verges and hedgerows with masses of frothy, white flowers. These flower umbels (umbrella-like clusters) appear from May until June.

How to identify

Cow parsley has large, flat umbrellas of small, white flowers, and large, fern-like leaves. When crushed between the fingers, the leaves produce a strong, aniseed-like scent. One of several common members of the carrot family, this is the most abundant, and the earliest-flowering of the umbellifers.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

More elegantly known as 'Queen Anne's Lace', cow parsley is attractive to a huge number of creatures, from orange-tip butterflies to marmalade hoverflies, and even rabbits. It's also attractive to us humans as its young leaves can be added to salads as 'Wild Chervil'.

How people can help

Although they might not look especially wildlife-friendly, our roadside verges, railway cuttings and waste grounds can provide valuable habitats for all kinds of plants and animals. The Wildlife Trusts are involved in many projects to make these places as beneficial for wildlife as possible. We have a vision of a Living Landscape: a network of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.