Plants of the Carrot Family

Carrot family members are characterized by umbel flowers (usually) and hollow stems. The flowers are arranged in an umbel, in which flowers arise on long pedicels (like the supports of an umbrella) to form a flat- or round-topped array of flowers. The small flowers usually have both pollen-bearing or ovule-bearing parts. Leaves when crushed usually give off a strong odor. The small flowers of the carrot family are attractive to a wide range of pollinators, but especially parasitic wasps, wasps, bees, and flies. 

A parasitic wasp eats pollen on a wild carrot blossom

There are several hundred species within this family of plants across North America and the world. In Northeast Kansas and Southeast Nebraska we can find several of these growing wild in our prairies and woodlands. Species you can find include sweet cicely, water hemlock, golden Alexanders, rattlesnake master, cow parsnip, wild parsnip, wild carrot, wild chervil, and wild angelica. Some of these and some introduced species make great garden plants (rattlesnake master, golden Alexanders, sweet cicely, fennel, sea holly, dill, masterwort, lovage, Bishop’s wort, ginseng, and parsley). 

Black swallowtail butterfly on lovage, a perennial garden herb

Besides being the host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly, they are attractive to a wide range of pollinators. They also mix well into different kinds of gardens. In the kitchen garden, add herbs such as dill, cumin, chervil, angelica, parsley, fennel, ginseng, coriander, and lovage. Let some go to flower and seed and you will keep the beneficials happy as well as seed a new crop for next year.

This great golden digger wasp is gathering nectar from the rattlesnake master (Eryngo yuccafolium), a native wildflower in Kansas and Nebraska

Plant golden Alexanders, rattlesnake master, sea holly, and lovage into the cottage garden, pollinator garden, Monarch waystation, or borders as fillers. These plants pair well with many others in the garden. Try adding ginseng, sweet cicely, or angelica in the shade garden for a light, airy texture. 

Add wild sweet cicely to your shade garden

No matter what style of garden you have (except maybe Japanese), you can add members of the carrot family into it and reap the benefits, whether it is food, pollinators, or predators of pest.

water hemlock is a great plant for beneficials but is also the most poisonous plant in North America

NOTE: Poison hemlock and water hemlock are extremely poisonous and should not be handled or added to any garden.


Happy planting!

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