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Moon Carrot

Seseli libanotis

  • Written also: Mooncarrot, Moon-carrot
  • Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
  • Growing form: Biennial or perennial herb. Root white, thick.
  • Height: 40–120 cm (15–50 in.). Stem branched, very deeply grooved, upper part and nodes hairy, full, remnants of old leaves at base.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic) (or slightly irregular (zygomorphic), white (sometimes slightly reddish), under 5 mm (0.2 in.) wide, outer surface hairy; petals 5, notched, tips turned inwards. Sepals 5, fall away early. Stamens 5. Gynoecium syncarpous, with 2 styles. Inflorescence a compound umbel. Primary and secondary umbels (30–40) with narrow, hairy bracts.
  • Leaves: Alternate, lower leaves stalked, upper leaves stalkless, base sheath-like. Blade narrowly elongated–triangular, 1–2 times pinnate. Leaflets very finely lobed, downy, underside bluish green.
  • Fruit: Widely elliptic–egg-shaped, quite flat, 2-sectioned, thick-ridged, usually fine-haired, brown, 2.5–4 mm (0.1–0.16 in.) long schizocarp.
  • Habitat: Meadows, dry meadow river banks. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Moon carrot favours dry places and often grows in amongst vegetation that has been affected by the human hand. Most often it can be found in old meadow banks, and the species is often spotted near old Viking burial sites. Moon carrot was probably an old medicinal plant, but no information about this has survived. It likes the dry, continental climate of the south, but the main limit on it in Finland is imposed by its demand for calciferous soil. Moon carrot grows in Finland on the main Åland Island, on the south-western archipelago and on the mainland around Turku. Some finds have been made on the Karelian Isthmus, so it can be found in eastern Finland too. It has suffered in Finland from e.g. construction, and many of its stands have completely disappeared.

Moon carrot usually gathers its strength for a year before it flowers and it dies in its second year. In difficult times it might take longer to gather sufficient strength, whereby it thus becomes a perennial. The inflorescence that develops at the end of the summer is handsome, with as much as 60 flowers in an umbel, and sometimes these even create umbels of their own! Like most of its relatives moon carrot remains erect after it dies, standing out in the winter to give its seeds the best chance of spreading on the wind. It can be most easily recognised by its deeply-grooved stem, hairy leaf remains on the bottom of the stem, and dense, hairy umbels. The species is a bit like cow parsley when it is not in bloom, and it can easily go unnoticed.

Other species from the same family

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