don’t be fooled by little hemlock

We continue our series of plants to take into account due to the possible confusion between little hemlock, egopod… and flat-leaf parsley, including chervil.

These four plants belong to the same family of Apiaceae, formerly known by the evocative name of umbelliferae (umbelliferae, due to their characteristic inflorescence). This explains their resemblance, because if it is generally easy to attribute a plant to this family, it is much more difficult to identify it precisely, because similarities abound there. We are well aware of the classic confusion between the carrot and the great hemlock, moreover easy to avoid when we know that the first is notoriously hairy while the second is completely glabrous, that is to say devoid of hair: touch is an important sense to distinguish a plant from another and help determine it.

All the plants that interest us here are glabrous. And furthermore, all four can be found in the same environment: the garden. Two of them arrive there on their own, while the third and fourth are grown exclusively there.

Those who say “grass” have not tried it

potted egopod

The potted egopod – Source: spm

Let’s start by introducing the egopody… if necessary: ​​it is one of the most hated “weeds” by gardeners, because it spreads at lightning speed with its long underground stems, or rhizomes, which allow it to invade maintained plots. mercilessly. Regular hoeing and weeding, as well as copious and constant mulching, manage to calm its enthusiasm, but trying to eliminate it by ruddering over its living surface is suicide, because each fragment in turn develops rhizomes and the problem multiplies. Those who know it, moreover, do not complain about its presence, because the egopod is one of our best wild vegetables. Its very young, tender and shiny leaves provide delicious salads. And its adult leaves can be prepared in many ways: it is an aromatic vegetable, flavored with carrot and celery, two cousins, still from the same family. It is made into exquisite quiches, succulent gratins, it accompanies meats –boiled, carbonated or baeckoffe à l’égopode are invigorating and tasty dishes– and fish, it gives fragrant soups… We would never finish no. However, we must mention its diuretic virtues and its ability to dissolve uric acid crystals, which makes it useful against the painful disease known as “gout” or, formerly, “podagra”. That’s where its nicknames “podagraire” and “gouty grass” come from.

But, I forgot to describe it. Delicate light green leaves emerge from the ground in early spring, opening into three large leaflets, the terminal itself divided into three, while the two lateral ones usually divide into two: they evoked those who called the plant goat’s hoof – egopod (in Latin Aegopodium podagraria), derives from the Greek aïx, aïgos, “goat”, and podion, “leg”. All leaflets (2nd row leaflets) are toothed around the edge. The petiole, the tail of the leaf if you will, is often, but not always, reddish. The egopod has a characteristic shape when cut: its section is “V”, which is easy to feel between the fingers, even touch it. And it is crossed throughout its entire length by a gutter on its upper face. The lamina, the flat part of the leaf, here the leaflets, is dull green. Later, at the beginning of summer, a shoot emerges from the humus that will become a stem with a few leaves and then, at its end, small umbels of white flowers that will become somewhat flattened and elongated fruits.

Check well before flowering


Parsley – Source: spm

The egopod normally grows in cool woods, because it likes shade, but has often migrated to sunny, disturbed garden soils, unless the latter have been conquered from old-growth woods. This is where he sometimes rubs shoulders with the little hemlock. This cousin of the great hemlock (Conium maculatum) belongs to another genus (Aethusa cynapium), but like it contains conine and several toxic alkaloids, including aetusine, although it is generally less dangerous. Hemlock minor first emerges from the ground with its leaves composed of several leaflets, each leaflet composed of deeply cut leaflets in acute segments. This repeated cutting gives a very different appearance to the egopod leaves and should be enough to avoid confusion. Then the stem ascends and bears small umbels composed of white flower umbels that show three very fine bracts (miniature leaves attached to the flowers) all directed downwards, which gives the inflorescence a characteristic appearance and makes the adult plant easy to grow. to recognize.

Before flowering, little hemlock could be confused with flat-leaf parsley (Pëtroselinum crispum), and this has happened many times: if you see a parsley in your garden that you don’t remember planting, there are strong assumptions that this is in fact. poisonous umbellifer Its leaves are dull green, sometimes a little grayish, and strongly cut, very different from those of parsley, less deeply incised and of a lighter and brighter green. The taste, of course, is not the same, but it is better to avoid using the latter to differentiate these plants.

Poisoning, due to the frequent confusion of the leaves with those of parsley, is seldom fatal due to its unpleasant taste. Repeated vomiting, gastrointestinal disorders often accompanied by dizziness are observed. Large doses induce numbness in the extremities, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory problems that can lead to death. Hemlock can also be photodynamizing: skin contact with the leaves or plant juice followed by exposure to the sun can cause skin lesions of varying intensity, ranging from simple redness to the appearance of bubbles and vesicles. A few days later, the affected areas usually show hyperpigmentation.

More confusion could arise with chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), also in the same family, another condiment often grown in gardens. Its thick, very light foliage is finely trimmed, much more so than that of little hemlock, and it gives off a characteristic, slightly aniseed odor, very different from that of its toxic cousin. Therefore, using your sense of smell can also be very helpful in staying healthy!

Habitat plant color brochures Petiole
ego pod Aegopodium podagraria forests, gardens Light green, sometimes reddish jagged “V” section, in gutter above
hemlock minor Aethusa cynapium churned earth, gardens dark green, matt Deep cut Round
Parsley Petroselinum crispum grown in gardens light green, bright cut moderately Round
Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium grown in gardens

light green, bright Deep cut, very thin Round

read also The many benefits of willow

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