General: Wild Chervil is a biennial or short-lived perennial from the carrot family (Apiacaeae). It forms rosettes in the first year of growth, and flowers in the second to fourth year.
Flowers: Small white flowers form umbrella-like clusters (umbels) that produce two joined seeds with tiny antenna-like structures at their tips.
Stem: Hollow, ridged, hair-covered stems. These carrot family plants are tall, upright, and can grow 0.3 – 1.8 m tall.
Leaves: Triangular, dividing leaves that appear fern-like and softly hairy. Foliage has a slightly sweet, musty odor.
Seeds: The seeds are narrow and 6 – 7mm long. At immaturity the seeds are green and turn to a shiny brown as they mature.
Roots: Parental taproots with thick, tuberous extensions that can extend over 2 m deep. Wild Chervil has taproots that spread aggressively.
Pacific water-parsley (Oenanthe sarmentosa) is extremely similar to Wild Chervil, but it tends to creep in shallow water.
Caution: Pacific water-parsley is poisonous. DO NOT TOUCH.
- Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
Poison Hemlock is from the same family as Wild Chervil, and as such they share many characteristics. The main difference between the two is their height: Poison Hemlock is much taller, as it often reaches 2 – 3 m or more at maturity. Another distinctive feature of Poison Hemlock is the purple-red splotching or streaking on its stems.
CAUTION: All parts of the Poison Hemlock plant are poisonous, including the flowers, leaves, stems, roots, and seeds. It contains potent toxic alkaloids that affect the nervous system, and even small internal doses can cause respiratory collapse and death.
It can also cause a severe skin reaction similar to a burn when touched.
- Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)
Sweet Cicely has fern-like foliage similar to Wild Chervil, and loves shade. Contrary to Poison Hemlock, it does not post any threats to human or animal health; in fact, all parts of the plant are edible!
Other members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) may also be confused for Wild Chervil. You can learn more about the identification and management of carrot family plants here.
Habitat and Origin
Wild Chervil is native to Europe. It grows in moist to wet disturbed areas at low to mid-elevations, such as ditches, stream banks, moist woods, riparian areas, roadsides, fence lines, and pastures. Wild Chervil can tolerate part-shade but prefers open sites.
Wild Chervil is widespread throughout the Fraser Valley, and rare sightings have been reported in Squamish.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Wild Chervil is spread both by vegetatively and by seed. Its root buds are generally responsible for the local expansion of existing plant populations; moreover, Wild Chervil is a prolific seed producer.
Wild Chervil can spread through the mowing of roadsides and ditches, as well as through transport by birds, waterways (ditches), and contaminated wildflower seed mixes.
Ecological and Economic Impacts
- Contact with Wild Chervil sap may cause burns when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
- Can act as a host for certain viruses that affect vegetable clops, particularly plants of the same family (e.g., carrots, parsnips, celery), like yellow fleck virus.
- May shade out smaller plants.
- Outcompetes native plants, reducing biodiversity.
- Particularly damaging to riparian areas.
- Out-competes pasture and hay crops, reducing forage for grazing animals.
- Livestock avoid it due to its unpalatable taste.
What Can I Do?
Wild Chervil has yet to be found in the Sea to Sky region, so the best approach to controlling its spread is by PREVENTION.
Learn to identify Wild Chervil: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify Wild Chervil
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Wild Chervil sighting by clicking here.
- Avoid planting Wild Chervil.
- Check wildflower mixes to ensure that they do not contain Wild Chervil.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Ensure soil and gravel are uncontaminated before transport.
- Minimize soil disturbances (e.g., use grazing plans that prevent soil exposure from overgrazing) and use seed mixes with dense, early colonization (e.g., alfalfa or barley) to re-vegetate exposed soil and resist invasion.
- Remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles or clothing used in infested areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Ensure that plants are disposed of in a garbage bag if found in floral arrangements to prevent seeds from spreading.
- Plant Wild Chervil in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Move soil that has been contaminated with Wild Chervil.
- Hand-pull young plants before seed production begin; if plants are mature, the plants must be dug from below the root crown; plants must be cut, bagged, and deeply buried at the landfill; do NOT compost.
- Remove the entire taproot to prevent re-sprouting.
- Smothering (by covering an area to block the plant’s access to air and sunlight) and infestation with PVC lining may also kill plants.
- Minimize soil disturbances, as this will promote germination of seeds banked in the soil. Cutting and mowing will minimize seed spread, but will also cause the plant to flower several times in a season and develop an extensive taproot.
Caution: It is recommended to wear gloves when handling Wild Chervil, as it may cause skin irritation.
- Treatment with a selective herbicide with some residual activity or with a non-selective herbicide has proven effective. However, the wet habitat it often resides in makes herbicide application difficult or impossible.
- Aminopyralid and metsulfuron-methyl; aminocyclophyrachlor and chrosulfuron; dicamba; imazapyr; glyphosate; metsulfuron; aminopyryralid; 2-4 D; and dicamba have been proven effective in certain conditions.
- We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
- No known biological agents exist for Wild Chervil.
- E-Flora BC, Athriscus sylvestris, https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Anthriscus%20sylvestris
- Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States, Wild Chervil, https://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/subject.html?sub=5114
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Wild Chervil, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasives/wild-chervil/
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Wild Chervil TIPS Factsheet, https://bcinvasives.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Wild-Chervil_Factsheet_04_22_2019.pdf
- Metro Vancouver, Best Management Practices for Wild Chervil in the Metro Vancouver Region, http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/PlanningPublications/WildChervilBMP.pdf
- Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program, Wild Chervil, http://www.invadingspecies.com/wild-chervil/
- Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Wild Chervil, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/wild-chervil
- Whatcom County Noxious Weed Control Board, Control Options for Wild Chervil, https://www.whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/27087/Wild-Chervil-Management