Apiaceae, the carrot family, is well represented at the Botanic Garden. A huge family of annual, biennial and perennial plants with a global distribution, Apiaceae is characterised by its distinctive inflorescence - the umbel, which gave the family its former name of Umbelliferae. From familiar foods, such as carrot and parsnip, to the striking architecture of the ornamentals Eryngium and Bupleurum, to toxic and invasive weeds like Giant Hogweed(Heracleum mantegazzianum), the family is rich in variety and uses.
Eryngium paniculatum on the Apiaceae bed
Three species of Eryngium have germinated on the Merton borders with E. planum 'Blaukappe' producing spectacular, metallic blue inflorescences. E. maritimum, our native sea holly, has germinated well. Its thick, glaucous foliage can be seen dotted across the borders. The candied roots of this species were considered aphrodisiac in Elizabethan England.
Eryngium planum 'Blaukappe'
Of the many Apiaceae species native to the British Isles several are threatened by changing patterns of land use. Sium latifolium, the Greater Water-parsnip, is a native plant found in the rafts of fen vegetation that build up on the margins of rivers and lakes. Modern approaches to the management of waterways have made such habitats increasingly rare. Now the Greater Water-parsnip is mostly confined to drainage ditches adjacent to arable land and is nationally scarce. The Oxford Rare Plants Group is active in the conservation of many threatened species in Oxfordshire including Sium latifolium. The Botanic Garden will be working with the Oxford Rare Plants Group to collect the seed of this plant for germination trials at the garden. More seed will be sent to the Millenium Seed Bank for long-term storage.
The nationally scarce Greater Water-parsnip Sium latifolium