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Wild Angelica

Angelica sylvestris

  • Name also: Woodland Angelica (USA)
  • Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
  • Growing form: Perennial, once-flowering herb. Rhizomatous.
  • Height: 1.5–2 m (60–80 in.). Stem sparsely branched, glossy, upper part finely haired, usually purplish, hollow, joints with septa.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), white–pinkish, 4–5 mm (0.16–0.2 in.) wide; petals 5, tip recurved. Sepals vestigial. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Inflorescence a hemispherical compound umbel, secondary umbels 20–40, globose. Primary umbel’s 1–3 bracts falling early, secondary umbels’ bracteoles needle-like, linear, descending oblique, spreading.
  • Leaves: Alternate, long-stemmed, sheath large and oval, stalk grooved, uppermost leaves bladeless, sheath-like. Blade triangular, 2–3 times pinnate, glabrous. Leaflets ovate, sharp-tipped, with serrated margins, terminal leaflet usually unlobed.
  • Fruit: Ovate–elongatedly round, flat-backed, 2-sectioned, low-ridged, edges thin-winged, brown, 4–5 mm long schizocarp.
  • Habitat: Broad-leaved forests, forest margins, logging areas, nutritious bogs, shores, damp meadows, field banks, abandoned fields.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Wild angelica is roughly as abundantly common as its relative cow parsley. It grows in many kinds of damp and nutritious habitats until around the Arctic Circle, but further north it is rare. Wild angelica takes ten years to bloom so it doesn’t naturally grow in larger bunches but rather alone or in small groups. Abandoned fields and banks can produce several plants of the same age that bloom at the same time, but in such a case the plants do not usually grow very close to one another.

Wild angelica blooms at the end of summer. The inflorescence can contain up to a couple of thousand flowers and their sweet fragrance attracts flies and mosquitoes. The most impressive pollinators are colourful beetles, while the most inconspicuous pollinators are incredibly small but abundant thysanopterans. Often only the primary umbel’s seeds ripen and the secondary umbels shrivel up before they mature.

Wild angelica dies after it flowers. In open meadows is stem remains erect during the winter and it looks very impressive, and its seeds spread in this way across the snow. The wings on the fruit promote this kind of spread, especially across ice or hard snow, and the fruit also floats well thanks to its porous floating chamber. People have noticed how sturdy wild angelica’s stem is: it makes a fine blowpipe for firing peas or rowan berries, and it can even be used to make a flute. Wild angelica has been unable to compete with its relative garden angelica (A. archangelica ssp. archangelica) as a medicinal, seasoning and vegetable herb, but it has been used in the same ways nonetheless. Its young shoots and leaves are boiled in salted water and eaten like spinach, and it has been used to treat coughs, stomach catarrh, digestive complaints and abdominal wind. It can be told apart from its close relatives garden angelica and sea garden angelica by its lobeless terminal leaflet and its leaf-stalk’s grooved upper surface.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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