Members of this familar family have alternate leaves, widening at the base into a sheath that clasps the stem. The stems are often furrowed. Some part of the plant will usually have a strong aroma of some sort - these aromas (and flavors, in some instances) of carrot, parsley, coriander, parsnip, celery, fennel, dill and anise are due primarily to various oils produced by the plant.
The usually compound flowers are almost always concentrated in flat-topped umbels; the rays of the primary umbel giving rise to a secondary unbel with the flower-bearing pedicels. The flowers have 5 petals, usually uneven, and 5 stamens. The seeds and fruit form below where the petals and stamen originate. Seeds are in tight pairs, often conspicuously ribbed, and sometime "winged".
Some members of this family are poisonous, some are irratating to the skin; handle unfamilar plants with caution.
Flowers: White, tiny numerous, sweet fragrance; clustered in balls to form multiple 5-6" umbels from a single stalk.
Leaves: Large, developing from stem layers, made up of 5 or more slightly toothed and distinctly lobed leaflets.
Fruit/Seeds: Elongated, with 2 broad wings and 3 slightly raised ribs on seed body.
Location: Coastal bluffs and dunes - Common throughout McNee Ranch State Park - easily found along Gray Whale Cove trail and San Pedro Road.
Status: Native - Common.
Further description & Comment: 2 - 5 feet tall;, stout stem. Distinctive "puckered pod" forming at top of stalk from which flowers bloom. Note difference of leaves from Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum), which blooms earlier.
Trails at lower elevations are heavily populated with Angelica - Note the distinctive leaf structure.
|The developing flower head pod and bright new foliage is a familar sight along trails in Spring. 640x480 JPEG - 56K||Angelica grows in open areas, protected from the wind, on slopes along the bluffs.|
Flowers: White, tiny, 5 petals in dense multiple clusters forming a compund umbel.
Blooms: May - September.
Leaves: Lacy, "parsley-like," compound bipinnate with deeply separated lobes.
Location: All trails, common, especially at lower elevations but has been found growing as high as 1200 ft.
Status: Alien Invasive - Common - POISONOUS.
Further description & Comment: Up to 8 feet tall. Extremely invasive, especially in disturbed areas, Hemlock is one of the four most bothersome invasive plant species on the San Mateo Coast. The other three are French Broom, Pampas Grass, and Cape Ivy. All four have the tendency to take over disturbed areas, create monocultures, crowd out native plants, and destroy natural habitat. Fortunately, it is an annual, and it's seeds will not germinate after one year, so a program of mowing and not letting the seed heads develop can eradicate, or at least control it.
Hemlock can be easily identified by the red/purple splotches on the stems (seen in the image to the left), often referred to as "the blood of Socrates."
This was the plant that Socrates killed himself with (not the unrelated tree with the same name), and has been widely used for centuries as a poison. Deadly if ingested - handling the fresh stems can cause severe skin reactions. Even the dried hollow stalks from previous years contain enough toxicity to cause severe illness if ingested.
Flowers: White, tiny, 5 petals in a dense flat umbrel. Older flower heads darken and form a cup-like "bird's nest." Stiff, 3-forked bracts immediately below the umbrel.
Blooms: Mainly June - September, but can bloom year-round.
Leaves: Distinctly branched, finely subdivided compound bipinnate with deeply separated lobes.
Fruit/Seeds: Small, brown, oval-shaped, 5-segmented with stiff bristles.
Location: Most trails at lower elevations.
Status: Alien Invasive - Common.
Further description & Comment: Up to 100 cm tall. Image below left shows how the older flowers fold up into a "bird's nest" - lower right shows the distinctive lacey bracts
Of european origin, most likely introduced as a garden escapee. Popularly used as a diuretic tonic in some parts - my Czech grandmother in Wisconsin used to collect Queen Anne's Lace along the roads to make tea and wine from it. My grandfather swore by it.
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