Alexanders 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
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 Townsend
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:
Wild food and recipes UK:
Published: May 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Click here for information about other plant species found on the Lizard.