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AlexanderAlexanders are among the first umbellifers to grace the verges and hedges of the Lizard in spring. The soft greeny-yellow of their umbels contrasts with the rich yellow of the gorse, proving that plants don't have to be rare to be beautiful.
Photo: Ray Surridge

Alexanders

Latin name: Smyrnium olustratum

Cornish name: Keggas

Other names: Horse parsley, Black Lovage

The name 'Alexanders' is derived from its Mediterranean origin – it is the 'parsley of Alexandria' (Mabey, 1997). Fully naturalised in Britain, it is one of the earliest members of the carrot family – the Umbellifers, which also include the more well-known Cow Parsley – to flower, appearing from April to June near to the coast. On the Lizard, it appears in huge rich swathes along verges and hedgerows, reaching up to 150 cm in height.
Photo: Steve TownsendAlexander

It is one of the plants that the national charity, Plantlife, monitor in their Wildflowers Count – see the link below for information for how you can help.

Did you know...?

...it is likely that the Romans first brought Alexanders to Britain, bringing it with them as a vegetable and medicinal herb. It was then cultivated as a vegetable until the eighteenth century, but is now largely replaced by celery (NB. Don't try eating any of the umbellifer family yourself unless you are sure of the identification – a small number are poisonous, though many are fine to eat).

...horses know their edible umbellifers – they love to eat Alexanders!

More information and references:

Mabey, R., 1997. Flora Britannica. Chatto & Windus, London.

Rose, F. and O'Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Websites with more information:

Plantlife:
http://www.plantlife.org.uk/wild_plants/plant_species/alexanders

Wild food and recipes UK:
http://www.wildfoodandrecipes.co.uk/2010/05/alexanders-roman-parsley.html

Published: May 2013
Author: Amanda Scott

Click here for information about other plant species found on the Lizard.

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