Cow parsley

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.

Species information


Height: up to 1m

Conservation status


When to see

May to June


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.



Did you know?

Cow parsley is attractive to a huge number of creatures, from orange-tip butterflies to marmalade hoverflies, and even rabbits. It is part of the Apiaceae family, more commonly know as umbellifers - a large family consisting of the celery, carrot and parsley variants of which there are over 3000 species.

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.