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Sea Parsley

Ligusticum scothicum

  • Name also: Scotch Lovage, Scots Lovage
  • Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 20–50 cm (8–20 in.). Stem glabrous, striped, the lower part glossy bluish-red, hollow, joints with septa. Emits strong smell.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), white–greenish, approx. 5 mm (0.2 in.) wide, petals 5, shallowly notched, with an incurved point. Sepals 5, small. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Inflorescence a compound umbel, secondary umbels 8–20. Bracts of primary and secondary umbels linear.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalked. Blade triangular, 1–2 times pinnate, dark green, glossy. Bracts broadly diamond-shaped, fleshy, serrate, tip often lobed.
  • Fruit: Broadly oblong–egg-shaped, not flat, 5–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in.) long 2-parted schizocarp, thickly ridged, narrowly winged.
  • Habitat: Stony sea-coasts.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Sea parsley grows on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, on the European side from the northern North Sea to the Arctic Ocean and the White Sea. According to the terms of the Moscow Armistice in 1944, Finland lost its Arctic Sea coast along with Petsamo to the Soviet Union and at the same time lost the sea parsley as a wild plant. The species did not grow in the area of the Baltic Sea, until in 1943 it was suddenly found on the Swedish coast of the Bothnian Sea, quite far from the closest known habitat in the strait of Denmark. The species began to spread quickly and it became clear that it would spread across the sea to the western Åland islands with the help of its floating fruits.

At the times of the first populations on the Åland islands, the sea parsley could also be found in the Finnish province of Satakunta, in Merikarvia islands. But these occurrences are hardly of Swedish origins, since the sea currents flow counter-clockwise in the Gulf of Bothnia, which means that they go southwards from the Swedish coast. Next the sea parsley astonished our botanists when it was found in the 1990s on the islands east of Helsinki, approx. 250 km (155 miles) from the closest habitat on the Åland Islands.

Supposedly the fruits of the plant made their way onto a ship crossing the Baltic and ended up being thrown into the sea together with some rubbish. The Finnish occurrences of the sea parsley can be found close to navigation channels, so the fruits could easily have floated to the coast of a nearby island. Our sea parsley could have originated from quite far away: the plants growing wild closest to us, in the Danish strait in Öresund, are obviously bound to a habitat close to the ocean with its high salt content since they have not spread to the Baltic area. It is quite possible, however, that the sea parsley has been growing in Finland for a long time without anybody realizing it, until the stem plants of our coasts were charted more carefully, motivated by those first finds. There might still be some sea parsley occurrences which have not yet been found. On the other hand, the species is still spreading to new growing spots, so it is worth keeping your eyes open if you are visiting the islands. Those looking for the sea parsley should also learn to recognize the sea garden angelica (Angelica archangelica ssp. litoralis), since the two plants are quite similar.

Other species from the same family

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