Sea Garden Angelica
Angelica archangelica ssp. litoralis
- Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
- Growing form: Perennial, once-flowering herb.
- Height: 50–120 cm (20–50 in.). Stem glossy, glabrous, lower part purplish, upper part reddish, hollow, joints with septa.
- Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), white–greenish, 4–5 mm (20–60 in.) wide; petals 5, notched, tip recurved. Sepals vestigial. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Inflorescence a compound umbel, secondary umbels 20–40, globose, stalks glabrous. Primary umbel with 1–3 quickly withering bracts, secondary umbels’ bracteoles linear, descending oblique, about half length of flower-stalk.
- Leaves: Alternate, stalked, sheath large and oval. Blade triangular, 2–3 times pinnate. Leaflets fleshy, with toothed margins–lobed, terminal leaflet 3-lobed.
- Fruit: Elliptic, 2-sectioned, quite shallowly ridged, 5–6 mm (0.2–0.24 in.) long schizocarp with unpleasant fragrance.
- Habitat: Open, rocky sea-shores.
- Flowering time: June–July.
True garden angelica (ssp. archangelica) is a Lapland species whose southern border runs alongside the southernmost fells of Pudasjärvi. Sea garden angelica on the other hand is a coastal species which grows more-or-less commonly as far as the Kvarken archipelago and more rarely around the Bay of Bothnia among shingle and rocky nooks and crannies. Sea garden angelica does not grow as tall as garden angelica and it is bluish green and fleshy-leaved. Additionally, the bracts on its secondary umbels are shorter, its fruit is smaller and it branches lower down. Garden angelica’s umbel-stalks are often somewhat hairy while sea garden angelica’s are glabrous. In Finland the subspecies are – apparently due to their separate habitats – so different that they could be regarded as independent species, but in shared habitats the line between them blurs.
Garden angelica – and to a lesser extent also its relative wild angelica (A. sylvestris) – is a reputable medicinal and seasoning herb as well as a food. In this respect sea garden angelica is the black sheep of its genus: it doesn’t have a pleasant fragrance but rather smells strong and sharp, and its bitter, burning taste can bring a tear to the eye. Sea garden angelica is best left in peace because it has poisoned domestic animals at least. Not only that, the juice from the shoot can cause a painful rash like sunburn in daylight.
Sea garden angelica can be easily differentiated from sea parsley (Ligusticum scothicum), which grows here and there on rocky sea-shores, when they are flowering: sea parsley’s umbel has a level crown while sea garden angelica is greenish and spherical. Sea garden angelica’s close relative wild angelica has different leaf-stalks: the former has round ones but the latter’s are grooved on top.