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Alexanders

Smyrnium olusatrum

How to spot it

Alexanders is a large, early emerging hedgerow plant that grows up to 1.5 metres tall and has a thick main stem that can become hollow. This plant has many clusters of little yellow-green umbel flowers appearing towards the top suspended by offshoots from the main stem. The shiny green leaves smell of celery. Alexanders cbe confused with cow parsley but is generally larger and thicker stemmed.

Where to spot it

Alexanders is found mainly towards the coast, probably due to its sensitivity to frosts, which are less common in coastal areas. It is more common in the south and rare in most of Scotland. It can be found on cliffs, hedge banks, road sides and other waste land areas.

Things you might not know

  • Every part of Alexanders, also known as horse parsley, is edible. In the past almost every part of the plant was used from the young flower-buds which were pickled like miniature cauliflowers to the roots.
  • It was formerly grown as a potherb and may be worth cultivating again for its unusual pleasant taste, a bit like angelica.
  • In Latin the name means the parsley of Alexandria.
  • In England and in Ireland you find it often by ruins of abbeys and castles.
  • A soup called ‘Lenten potage’ was made of Alexanders, watercress and nettles by Irish matrons in the 18th Century.

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