(Washingtonia longistylis; Osmorrhiza longistylis of Gray)

Carrot family

Flowers - Small, white, 5-parted; in few rayed, long-peduncled

umbels, with small bracts below them. Stem: 1 1/2 to 3 ft. high,

branching, from thick, fleshy, fragrant, edible roots. Leaves:

Lower ones often very large, long-petioled, thrice-compound, and

again divided, the leaflets ovate, pointed, deeply toothed,

slightly downy; upper leaves less compound, nearly sessile.

Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods and thickets.

Flowering Season - May-June.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, westward to Dakota.

Graceful in gesture, with delicate, fernlike leaves and

anise-scented roots that children, like rabbits, delight to

nibble, the sweet cicely attracts attention by its fragrance,

however insignificant its flowers. In wooded places, such as it

prefers to dwell in, white blossoms, which are far more

noticeable in a dim light than colored ones, and finely cut

leaves that can best withstand the drip from trees, abound. These

white umbels bear a large proportion of male, or pollen-bearing,

florets to the number of hermaphrodite, or two-sexed, florets;

but as the latter mature their pollen before their stigmas become

susceptible to it, self-fertilization is well guarded against,

and cross-fertilization is effected with the help of as many

flies as small bees, which come in numbers to lick up the nectar

so freely exposed in consideration of their short tongues. We

have to thank these little creatures for the long, slender seeds,

armed with short bristles along the ribs, that they may snatch

rides on our garments, together with the beggar-ticks, burdock,

cleavers, and other vagabond colonists in search of unoccupied

ground. Be sure you know the difference between sweet cicely and

the poisonous water hemlock before tasting the former's spicy


Was there no more important genus - containing, if possible, red,

white, and blue flowers - to have named in honor of the Father of

his Country?

Another member of the Carrot family, the SANICLE or BLACK

SNAKEROOT (Sanicula Marylandica), found blooming from May to July

in such rich, moist woodlands and shrubbery as the sweet cicely

prefers, lifts spreading, two to four rayed umbels of

insignificant-looking but interesting little greenish-white

florets. At first the tips of the five petals are tucked into the

center of each little flower; underneath them the stamens are now

imprisoned while any danger of self-fertilizing the stigma

remains. The few hermaphrodite florets have their styles

protruding from the start, and incoming insects leave pollen

brought from staminate florets on the early-maturing stigmas.

After cross-fertilization has been effected, it is the pistil's

turn to keep out of the way, and give the imprisoned stamens a

chance: the styles curve until the stigmas are pressed against

the sides of the ovary, that not a grain of pollen may touch

them; the petals spread and release the stamens; but so great is

the flower's zeal not to be fertilized with its own pollen that

it sometimes holds the anthers tightly between the petals until

all the vitalizing dust has been shed! Around the hermaphrodite

florets are a large number of male florets in each hemispheric

cluster. Hooked bristles and slender, curved styles protrude from

the little burr-like seeds, that any creature passing by may give

them a lift to fresh colonizing land! The firm bluish-green

leaves, palmately divided into from five to seven oblong,

irregularly saw-edged segments, the upper leaves seated on the

stem, the lower ones long-petioled, help us to identify this

common weed.

With splendid, vigorous gesture the COW-PARSNIP (Heracleum

lanatum) rears itself from four to eight feet above moist, rich

soil from ocean to ocean in circumpolar regions as in temperate

climes. A perfect Hercules for coarseness and strength does it

appear when contrasted with some of the dainty members of the

carrot tribe. In June and July, when a myriad of winged creatures

are flying, large, compound, many-rayed umbels of both

hermaphrodite and male white flowers are spread to attract their

benefactors the flies, of which twenty-one species visit them

regularly, besides small bees, wasps, and other short-tongued

insects, which have no difficulty in licking up the freely

exposed nectar. The anthers, maturing first, compel

cross-fertilization which accounts for the plant's vigor and its

aggressive march across the continent. A very stout, ridged,

hairy stem, the petioled leaves compounded of three broadly

ovate, lobed and saw-edged divisions, downy on the underside, and

the great umbels, which sometimes measure a foot across, all bear

out the general impression of a Hercules of the fields.

FOOL'S PARSLEY, or CICELY, or DOG-POISON (Aethusa cynapium), a

European immigrant found in waste ground and rubbish heaps from

Nova Scotia to New Jersey and westward to the Mississippi, should

be known only to be avoided. The dark bluish-green, finely

divided, rather glossy leaves when bruised do not give out the

familiar fragrance of true parsley; the little narrow bracts,

turned downward around each separate flower-cluster, give it a

bearded appearance, otherwise the white umbel suggests a small

wild carrot head of bloom. Cows have died from eating this

innocent-looking little plant among the herbage; but most

creatures know by instinct that it must not be touched.

Strange that a family which furnishes the carrot, parsnip,

parsley, fennel, caraway, coriander, and celery to mankind,

should contain many members with deadly properties. Fortunately


or BEAVER-POISON (Cicuta maculata) has been branded as a

murderer. Purple streaks along its erect branching stem

correspond to the marks on Cain's brow. Above swamps and low

ground it towers. Twice or thrice pinnate leaves, the lower ones

long-stalked and often enormous, the leaflets' conspicuous veins

apparently ending in the notches of the coarse, sharp teeth, help

to distinguish it from its innocent relations sometimes

confounded with it. Its several tuberiform fleshy roots contain

an especially deadly poison; nevertheless, some highly

intelligent animals, beavers, rabbits, and the omnivorous small

boy among others have mistaken it for sweet-cicely with fatal

results. Indeed, the potion drunk by Socrates and other

philosophers and criminals at Athens, is thought to have been a

decoction made from the roots of this very hemlock. Many little

white flowers in each cluster make up a large umbel; and many

umbels to a plant attract great numbers of flies, small bees, and

wasps, which sip the freely exposed nectar apparently with only

the happiest consequences, as they transfer pollen from the male

to the proterandrous hermaphrodite flowers. Just as the

cow-parsnip shows a preponderance of flies among its visitors, so

the water hemlock seems to attract far more bees and wasps than

any of the umbel-bearing carrot tribe. It blooms from the end of

June through August.

Still another poisonous species is the HEMLOCK WATER-PARSNIP

(Sium cicutaefolium), found in swampy places throughout Canada

and the United States from ocean to ocean. The compound,

long-rayed umbels of small white flowers, fringy-bracted below,

which measure two or three inches across; the extremely variable

pinnate leaves, which may be divided into from three to six pairs

of narrow and sharply toothed leaflets (or perhaps the lower

long-stalked ones as finely dissected as a wild carrot leaf where

they grow in water), and the stout, grooved, branching stem, from

two to six feet tall, are its distinguishing characteristics. In

these umbels it will be noticed there are far more hermaphrodite,

or two-sexed, florets (maturing their anthers first), than there

are male ones; consequently quantities of unwelcome seed are set

with the help of small bees, wasps, and flies, which receive

generous entertainment from July to October.

The MOCK BISHOP'S-WEED (Ptilimnium capillaceum), a slender,

delicate, dainty weed found chiefly in saltwater meadows from

Massachusetts to Florida and around the Gulf coast to Texas, has

very finely dissected, fringy leaves and compound umbels two to

four inches across, of tiny white florets, with threadlike bracts

below. It blooms throughout the summer.

SKUNK OR SWAMP CABBAGE SNAKE BERRY POISONFLOWER WOODY NIGHTSHADE facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail