Celery Family

Updated by Marc Williams                 marc@botanyeveryday.com                           May, 2018

Apiaceae / Celery Family / Apiales

A link to a photo album of members of the Apiaceae can be seen a Thomas Elpel's site below



The Apiaceae is one of the major families for culinary herbs and root crops. This family includes Celery (Apium graveolens), Carrot (Daucus carota) Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), Dill (Anethum graveolens), Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) and Cumin (Cuminum cyminum). It also contains many great wild edibles i.e. Sweet Cicily (Osmorhiza spp.), Honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis) Corkwing (Cymopterus spp.) and Biscuit Root (Lomatium spp.).


Many medicines come from the Celery family. In his copy of Botany in a day Frank Cook (2006) noted a medicinal use of Osha (Ligusticum spp.) for clearing the mind like Calamus. He apparently learned this from from 7 Song www.7song.com . He also noted the use of Parsley seed tea for alcoholism. Frank is cited twice in the text for information on the poisonous nature of some Sanicles (Sanicula spp.) and the weedy presence of Japanese Parsnip (Torilis japonica) in California (Elpel, 2004, pp. 132,134). Gotu Cola (Centella asiatica) is a medicinal known to improve the clarity of the mind. A native verison (Centella erecta) grows throughout Florida but I am unaware of its medicinal value. Makes a great flavorful trail nibble though. Angelica (Angelica spp.) has a history of use for cold and flu.


Due to the extremely poisonous nature of some members in this family always be careful to POSITIVELY IDENTIFY!!! , Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata), and Cow Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) contain convulsant poisons.  Neither of the Apiaceae hemlocks are closely related to the tree named Hemlock (Tsuga  spp.) that is in the Pinaceae. Triterpine saponins occur in the Apiaceae (Wink & Van Wyk, 2008). Skin irritation and photosensitation can occur from contact with Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Large Bullwort (Ammi majus), Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris), Carrot/Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota), Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum) and (Heracleum sphondylium) (Nelson, Shih, & Balick, 2007). Furanocoumarins are often the cause of inflammation (Wink & Van Wyk, 2008). 



Many members of the Apiaceae are known to bring in beneficial insects. Members of the Celery family are hosts to the Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) (Tallamy, 2009). Parsley and Carrot are also the larval hosts for the Eastern Black Swallowtail and Anise Swallowtail butterflies (Schneck, 1990).


Many of the Appalachian introduced and naturalized species are invasive. This includes Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Spreading Hedgeparsley (Torilis arvensis), and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) (Miller, Chambliss, & Bargeron, 2006). Gout weed (Aegopodium podagraria) can also spread aggressively. However, it is imminently edible and can be used like Parsley. Goutweed is also known to indicate nitrogen rich soils in Europe where it is from (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007). Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is an introduced problem plant of the North from Maine to British Columbia (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007). Poison Hemlock forms dense stands that are toxic to most animals and one plant can make 30,000 seeds (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007). Bur Chervil (Anthriscus caucalis) is a European plant that is considered a weed in the western U.S. (Ball et al., 2001).

Dye Plants:

Daucus carota (J. Cannon & M. Cannon, 2003)

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) (A. Krochmal & C. Krochmal, 1974)

Purple Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare  var purparescens¬Ě) (Buchanan, 1995; J. Cannon & M. Cannon, 2003).


Other Crafts:

Many members make good fresh cut flowers including Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota), Dill (Anethum graveolens), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Ammi (Ammi majus).

Literature Cited

Ball, D. A., Dewey, S. A., Elmore, C., Lyn, R. G., Morishita, D. W., Swan, D. G., & Zollinger, R. K. (2001). Weeds of the West.  (T. D. Whitson, R. Parker, & D. Cudney, Eds.) (9th ed.). Jackson, WY: University of Wyoming.

Buchanan, R. (1995). A Dyer's Garden : From Plant to Pot: Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press.

Cannon, J., & Cannon, M. (2003). Dye Plants and Dyeing. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Elpel, T. J. (2004). Botany in a Day:
The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
(5th ed.). Pony, MT: HOPS Press.

Elpel, T. J., & Cook, F. (2006). Botany in a Day: The Patterns method of Plant Identification (Frank Cook personal copy.). Pony, MT: HOPS Press.

Kaufman, S. R., & Kaufman, W. (2007). Invasive Plants. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Krochmal, A., & Krochmal, C. (1974). The Complete Illustrated Book of Dyes from Natural Sources. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Miller, J. H., Chambliss, E. B., & Bargeron, C. (2006, January). Invasive Plants of the Thirteen Southern States. Invasive and Exotic Species of North America. Retrieved March 10, 2008, from http://www.invasive.org/south/seweeds.cfm

Nelson, L. S., Shih, R. D., & Balick, M. J. (2007). Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.

Schneck, M. (1990). Butterflies: How to Identify and Attract Them to Your Garden. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press Inc.

Tallamy, D. (2009). Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Updated Ed.). Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Wink, M., & Van Wyk, B. (2008). Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World (1st ed.). Portland, OR: Timber Press.



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