Images: ©Jouko Lehmuskallio

Broad-leaved Sermountain

Laserpitium latifolium

  • Name also: Laserwort, Broad Leaved Sermountain
  • Latin synonym: Daucus latifolius
  • Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 60–150 cm (25–60 in.). Stem upper part branched, finely streaked, almost glabrous, full, base with remains of old leaves.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (sometimes outer corollas slightly zygomorphic), white (sometimes a delicate shade of pink), 4–7 mm (0.16–0.28 in.) wide; petals 5, tip recurved. Sepals vestigial. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Inflorescence a compound umbel, secondary umbels 20–40. Primary umbel’s bracts quite large, secondary umbels’ needle-like, modest.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalked, leaf-base sheath-like, wide. Blade triangular, 2 times with 3 leaflets. Leaflets ovate–elliptic, cordate-based, with serrated margins, bluish green.
  • Fruit: Broadly elongated, quite flat-backed, 2-sectioned, low-ridged, very wide-winged, light brown, 5–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in.) long schizocarp.
  • Habitat: Sloping meadows and coppices, forest margins, broad-leaved forests.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Broad-leaved sermountain is one of Finland’s most handsome Carrot family plants, bringing a touch of the lushness of the south to its environment. The plant’s leaves are often uncommonly large, which has given it the scientific name latifolia: ’wide-leaved’. It is an easy plant to recognize on account of its bluish-green leaves and typical form. A fail-safe identification marker is also the eye-catchingly large, wavily wrinkled wings which grow on the fruit and help the species spread on the wind.

Broad-leaved sermountain grows here and there on the Åland Islands, and its easternmost stands are on western parts of Finland’s south-western archipelago. It is a demanding plant that favours a warm, rich habitat. It is so at home in the calciferous soil of dry broad-leaved forests that, together with zigzag clover, it has become an indicator plant for this kind of environment. The species can also be found in damp and shady places, although then it does not usually flower. It disappears quickly from grazing grounds because especially sheep are very fond of it. It played a role in the old agriculture economy because it was believed to increase the milk yield of cattle.

The plant’s generic name comes from Ancient Greece, where the word laser referred to a strongly fragranced resin that was obtained from another member of the Carrot family and used in cooking. Broad-leaved sermountain does not have this resin but it has other aromatic substances which make it useful as a medicinal, especially for animals. The root has been believed to strengthen the stomach and is able to lower fevers. As a medicinal plant it has been transplanted outside its natural habitat and even made it to perennial flowerbeds.

Other species from the same family
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