Earlier this month I photographed Pacific Water-Parsley (Oenanthe sarmentosa), a plant that grows in wet places along the South Beach Trail in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Today I was out with a group photographing natural objects on the beach when I noticed some Cow-parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) along the edge of the beach. It was while discussing ways to photograph this plant and the importance of not mistaking it for Giant Hogweed (H. mantegazzianum) that I saw a smaller member of Apiaceae that initially looked a little like Pacific Water-Parsley. I realized that although the flower structure was similar, the leaf pattern looked quite different so I took a few photographs with the intention of identifying them back in office.
The mystery plant looks to be Pacific Hemlock-Parsley (Conioselinum gmelinii). I’ve included photographs of both plants and a short description of each below.
Pacific Hemlock Parsley
Pacific Hemlock-Parsley has flowers that are small and white, forming 8 to 30 compact clusters that create an umbel. The leaves are 2 to 4 times pinnately dissected (forming a fern-like look).
Pacific Hemlock-Parsley prefers gravelly beaches and upper tidal areas. It is usually found close to the coastline.
Although the carrot-like tap root of this plant is apparently edible the plant looks a little too much like Poison-Hemlock (Conium maculatum) to make it worth the risk.
Pacific Water-Parsley has flowers are that are also small and white, forming 5 to 20 compact clusters which creates an umbel.
The leaves of Pacific Water-Parsley are egg-shaped in outline and coarsely pinnately divided. The leaflets are toothed with primary lateral veins that are directed toward the marginal teeth. Typically, it is found in wet areas along streams and sloughs, ditches and forest edges.
I love the fact that both of these very similar looking plants can be found growing closely together allowing an opportunity for comparison. I’m definitely going to revisit them and take some photographs of the seeds later in the summer!