Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Dame's Rocket and Wild Chervil

There are two plants that are widely in bloom here now, often seen along the roadside, in ditches, or along fencerows.  Dame's Rocket is commonly mis-identified as Phlox, while Wild Chervil, Anthriscus sylvestris, is a spreading invasive plant here in Grey County, with some similar but poisonous plants to watch out for.  In fact we seem to be the heart of its population in Ontario.

Here they are together, on the shore of the bay, just a short distance from the Garden-by-the-Bay.

These photos provide a close look at a Wild Chervil flowerhead, with a flowerhead that has gone to seed.  They generate thousands of seeds, which is how they spread.  The 'flowers' are the tiny white blossoms or florets that have five almost microscopic petals.  Dozens of these tiny flowers are held in an umbrella-shaped cluster.

The problem with Wild Chervil is that it spreads so readily, as it has all along the shoreline trail where we walked a few days ago.  We see patches of it all over the place.

Poisonous Plants??

Another reason for writing this post is that there are some very similar plants, also in bloom at this time of year, that are poisonous - in the case of Water Hemlock, deadly poisonous.  Casually picking a plant like this might easily lead to skin burns or worse if you are not sure of the species.  Here's a list to watch out for:

Giant Hogweed, Heraculem mantegazzium - similar, but huge, up to 5 metres tall and flowers the size of dinner plates.
Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa - also similar, but yellowy flowerheads.
Both of these species are poisonous to the touch.  If your skin is later exposed to sunlight, you will get a nasty burn.  Touching your eyes in this circumstances has been known to cause blindness.
Water Hemlock, Cicuta maculata - loosely similar, known as the most toxic plant in North America.
This plant, if eaten (by cows or humans), is almost always fatal, and the poison acts very quickly.

Sorry I don't have pictures, but my message is, don't touch a plant like this unless you can positively identify it, and don't in any circumstances eat either the roots or leaves.

Here is more Wild Chervil, with Dame's Rocket in the background, both growing just down at the end of the street.

There's no poison associated with Dame's rocket, and it really looks rather pretty, especially when mixed in with Buttercups.  But it does get confused with your garden variety Phlox.

Here's a close look that easily shows the four petals of Dam's rocket, so if you're confused, just take a close look.

And this is a nice garden Phlox, blooming in the gardens of Parkwood Hospital, which I photographed last summer.  If you look closely you'll see the flowers have 5 petals, not 4.  There's also a seasonal difference in blooming.  Dame's Rocket is in bloom now, while Phlox doesn't usually bloom until August.

We don't think of Dame's rocket as invasive here, but across the prairies, from Wisconsin to southern Alberta, it is a seriously troublesome invasive species.


  1. My phlox is in mid-bloom and will be done in a week or so.

  2. We also have Giant Hogweed here on the coast. Our most widespread invasive plant is Scotch Broom. The yellow flowers are beautiful in April/May but it spreads like wildfire and is so hard to eradicate once started. - Margy

  3. There is some beatful wildflowers out there, but we do have the giant Hogweed across the road from us, Gonna stay away from them for sure

  4. We have cow parsley in bloom around here right now. It looks a lot like hemlock, but I remembered in Colorado seeing hemlock grow and noticed that the stalks have purple splotches on the stems. Wild carrot is also close in appearance. Our phlox is in bloom now, and I so enjoyed your pictures. :-)

  5. Thank you for this information. I had heard of some Poisonous Flowers but didn't know which ones.
    Be Safe and Enjoy the Summer Blooms.

    It's about time.

  6. Until a year ago, I didn't know some flowers were poisonous to the touch. Poison ivy, of course, I have known since I was six. (I learned the hard way.)

  7. Beautiful with grass, tall trees, and a mass of white blooms at the back. Interesting facts about how poisonous some can be, even when they look so pretty. Phlox are popular down here too/

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  9. Looks like I am one of those people who has been mixing up Dame's Rocket with Phlox. Now knowing about the petals I should be able to get it right from here on in. I remember digging up a clump of Giant Hogweed about 40 years ago one time and planting it beside one of my yard ponds in Stratford Ontario. Never knew it was poisonous until somebody told me. Luckily I didn't suffer any ill effects from handling the plant.

  10. We have a lot of the Dame's Rocket around here too and I think it is so pretty.
    Have the wild chervil too which I didn't know the name of. It reminds me of Queen Anne's lace.

  11. I included wild shervil in a post just a few days ago...had no idea it was invasive...unless that's only invasive to the upper latitudes...doesn't include FL.

    I'll stop enjoying it :)

  12. I have been looking and looking at the poisonous plants...makes me wonder what I have seen in the past.

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