Plants to look for in May — Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley
Photo credit: Pearl Melville

Where to look

It i widespread and common throughout the UK. It is often seen on roadsides and near hedgerows and can also be found in woodland edges.


Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) belongs to the carrot or Apiaceae family (formerly Umbellifera from the French and Latin for sunshade, due to the arrangement of their flowers which is a bit like a flat topped umbrella!). The flowers are small, with five petals, and clustered together to make small umbels (umbrellas) which are then grouped together to make up one large umbel (a compound umbellifer). It can spread quickly in rich damp soil both by seed and its rhizomes (a continuously growing horizontal underground stem.) It often gets mixed up with Hogweed (not to be confused with Giant hogweed) but hogweed flowers in late spring and summer. Also hogweeds leaves are much larger and only coarsely divided while cow parsley has many feathery leaflets. It  is probably best not to pick cow parsley unless you are positive of its identity as it can be confused with other umberlliferas such as  hemlock (which is poisonous) and giant hogweed (sap burns in sunlight).

For more info see

Where we've found Cow Parsleys

Cow Parsley spottings journal (15 seen)

Last seen Location Spotted by Group Notes
2 Jun 2020 cps Wales Class
31 May 2020 Behind my garden Mrs Dalgleish-Smith Ireland Class Cow parsley by the stream behind my garden
27 May 2020 Stroud Valley Community School my garden.
25 May 2020 Amberley Alison New Ventures Trust Cow parsley looks so pretty in the snickets around the village.
19 May 2020 Canal towpath Jo The Weaver's
19 May 2020 Folly Lane Ella The Weaver's
14 May 2020 cirencester mia gordon Ireland Class mia gordon came across this on her nature walk
6 May 2020 Near my home Mrs Dalgleish-Smith Ireland Class On a walk near where I live
5 May 2020 Snuff mills Lana The Emmetts
3 May 2020 Polzeath Daisy Blended Pretty cow parsley!
3 May 2020 Polzeath Gav Blended Cow parsley in a Cornish hedgerow.
1 May 2020 Devizes Pops Cooks&Co Cow Parsley alongside the Kennet and Avon Canal, Devizes
1 May 2020 dursley woods Stacey Wild group
27 Apr 2020 Hedgerow Amélie Cooks&Co
24 Apr 2020 Stratford Road Tamsin Stroud Valleys Project


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