Flora Pittsburghensis

Umbelliferae or Apiaceae

The parsley or carrot family includes ancestors of some of our most common garden vegetables. It also includes some of our most deadly poisons.

Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides

Hydrocotyle americana

Sanicula marilandica

Sanicula gregariaClustered Black Snakeroot (Sanicula gregaria). Greenish-yellow flowers with very long (in proportion to the flower) stamens and lower leaves with five roughly equal leaflets are distinguishing marks. Other species of Black Snakeroot around here have white flowers and compound leaves with the lower pair of leaflets split almost to the base.

Sanicula trifoliata

Sanicula canadensis

Chaerophyllum procumbens

Osmorhiza claytoniiSweet Cecily (Osmorhiza claytonii). A small relative of Queen Anne’s Lace, this one grows in the woods and bears its few-flowered umbels in spring. The fuzzy fern-like leaves are distinctive. A similar species, O. longistylis, is not hairy, and thus easy to distinguish.

Osmorhiza longistylis

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum). This is the plant “by which criminals and philosophers were put to death at Athens,” as Gray observes with  a humor as dry as an herbarium specimen. Most notoriously, the juice killed Socrates. It’s a European import that’s very common in Pittsburgh along roadsides and at the edge of the woods. The plants resemble their relative Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), but are much taller, with looser umbels borne profusely up and down the strong stems. Often the main stem has a distinctive whitish bloom.

Zizia aureaGolden Alexanders (Zizia aurea). Also known as Early Meadow Parsnip, this is like a cheery golden Queen Anne’s Lace, with similar compound umbels of flowers, more delicate than the similarly yellow Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa). It likes a damp open woods or meadow.

Cicuta maculata

Cryptotaenia canadensis

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria). This attractive plant came to us as a garden perennial, but has made itself so much at home that it is becoming a pest in some areas. Its spreading habit makes it a useful ground cover, but it is almost impossible to eradicate if it gets into a plot where it’s not welcome, because, when it is pulled up or dug out, a new plant will sprout from the tiniest bit of rhizome left in the soil. Many garden forms have variegated leaves, but those forms may bear seeds that will grow into ordinary green-leaved Goutweed.

Anethum graveolens

Thaspium trifoliatum

Angelica venenosa

Pastinaca sativaWild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa). This is actually the same plant as the garden parsnip, though not bred for flavor. It is often found on roadsides and at the edge of the woods, frequently growing almost as tall as a person. Blooms in late Spring. The combination of tall, thick stems and broad compound umbels of yellow flowers is distinctive.

Heracleum maimum

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). The ancestor of our common carrots and parsley, this European import is everywhere. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. The tiny off-white flowers are carried in dense flat clusters (“compound umbels,” to use botanical language, meaning that the whole cluster is an umbel made up of umbels). You can often find a single tiny purple floret in the center of the cluster. Later, the umbels close up into a seed cluster that strongly resembles a bird’s nest. A purple form, with all purple and white bicolored flowers, is rare.

Index of Families.