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Lesser water-parsnip

Scientific name: Berula erecta
Look out for the white, umbrella-like flower heads of Lesser water-parsnip along the shallow margins of ditches, ponds, lakes and rivers. When crushed, it does, indeed, smell like parsnip!

Species information


Height: 0.3-1m

Conservation status


When to see

July to September


The Lesser water-parsnip is a perennial, aquatic plant that grows in shallow, clear, flowing water at the margins of ditches, ponds, lakes and rivers.
It can grow quite tall and displays umbrella-like flower heads from July to September.

How to identify

Lesser water-parsnip has loose umbels of white flower heads and grooved hollow stems. Its bluish-green leaves are pinnate with varying numbers of leaflets (3 to 14 pairs) that have toothed edges. A characteristic feature of this plant is the presence of a pale ring at the base of the leaf stalk.


Mainly found in lowland England, scarce elsewhere.

Did you know?

As its name suggests, Lesser water-parsnip smells of parsnip or carrot when it is crushed.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.