Cow parsley

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Cow parsley is a pretty biennial native plant that scatters itself along roadsides and hedgerows.

Cow parsleyAbsence will always make the heart grow fonder: especially in gardens. I have just got back after a few days at the Malvern Spring Show — which was, as always, great fun, pretty fabulous and completely exhausting — and it is amazing how much fuller everything in the garden is looking. Plants that were mere toddlers when I left have blossomed into adolescents.

Most notable is the cow parsley, or Queen Anne’s lace. Over the past decade or so we have encouraged it to seed itself amongst the trees alongside the drive and while I have been away it has burst into flower. Cow parsley (or Anthriscus sylvestris to give it its posh Latin name) is a pretty biennial* native plant that scatters itself along roadsides and hedgerows.

I learned from reading a fine blog called The Inelegant Gardener that it is called cow mumble in Suffolk and she also points us to another site that has a whole load of other regional alternatives — my favourites are ha-ho (from Ireland) and dog's keks (the Norwegian version).

There are some fine garden equivalents as well: it would be a mistake to allow the wild version into your garden as it is terribly profligate in its habits and will self-seed everywhere. In particular Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' that has deep purple leaves (you will see a fair bit of this plant at the Chelsea Flower Show next week as it is perfect for the time of year). Another one that I love is Chaerophyllum hirsutum 'Roseum', which has flowers of softest fairy pink that fade to white.

* A biennial, incidentally, is a plant that takes two years to flower from seed: it puts on leaves, stems and roots during the first year and then flowers the following summer. A lot of vegetables are actually biennial (for example beetroot, sprouts, carrots and celery) but we eat them in their first year, so they never get the chance to flower. Once they have flowered they die.

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Cow parsley
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Gardeners' World Web User 12/05/2009 at 19:26

I love this plant! Very clean looking, native and great for insects. Can't go wrong really. If you like this you will also love Orlaya grandiflora. One of my favourites from last year. I've seen some great pics from Malvern! Ryan (

Gardeners' World Web User 12/05/2009 at 20:21

Just a word of warning - if you're growing carrots, get rid of the cow parsley - as far as I know it attracts the blighters.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/05/2009 at 22:01

Hurrah - when I saw you'd posted on this, I immediately thought 'Cow Mumble', so it's great to see you've linked to HM's post :)

Gardeners' World Web User 12/05/2009 at 22:34

Cow Parsley or Queen Anne's lace takes me back to my mothers garden. It grew in the far back corner for many years.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/05/2009 at 06:24

Hi, a question and help needed please if anyone can help. Purchased a 4 tier mini greenhouse a few years back (have 2 so will have the same problem again). Mine are larger than the ones on the market and i need a new cover. All the new ones are 690mm width and i need a 890mm width. Does anyone have any suggestions on where to look? I have run out of ideas and sites to look at. Many thanks

See more comments...