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A member of the carrot family common along hedge rows in coastal regions.


  • Alexanders: the horse parsley

    Post date: Thursday, 21 April, 2016 - 00:00

    The carrot family is a diverse one with many species, some very common and others, as you might expect, very rare. One of the first of the family to flower each year is alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) which can flower from March onwards until June.

    The 'umbels' (ie carrot family) are named as such because of their 'umbrella' shaped flower heads and they can be difficult to tell apart but alexanders is easy because it has a pale green flower head where as most of the family are white, cream or yellow. It also has large glossy leaves which is unusual in the carrot family. It is a stout and robust plant and cannot be missed, it is quite an imposing plant.

    Alexanders is a fairly local plant confined to coastal regions Britain and I had not seen it until we moved here to Dorset where it is plentiful near the coast. It quite often grows in hedgerows and on banks inland but hardly more than five miles from the sea.

    I have no idea where it gets its name. It is really a native of the Mediterranean region but may have been introduced to Britain, possibly by the Romans, as a food crop similar to celery but that has long since stopped. Apparently it is much savoured by horses hence its other common name of horse parsley so may be their is a connection with Alexander the Great and his horse? 


Common Name Alexanders
Scientific Name Smyrnium olusatrum
Species Group Carrot Family Umbelliferae
Interest Level
Look for
Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
Family Carrot family - Umbelliferea
Status Locally common
Flower Colour Group Yellow
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
Preferred Environment
Look for Early flowering greenish-yellow umbrella flowers near the sea
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Carrot Family Umbelliferae