Aethusa (Apiaceae for Flora Nordica)


Taxa treated:
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 © Flora Nordica

by Lars Fröberg
(6b, 20090514)

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Aethusa L.

Linnaeus, Sp. pl.: 256 (1753).

Aethusa cynapium L.              map              ill.

Linnaeus, Sp. Pl.: 256 (1753). – Type: Linnaean Herbarium 362.1 (LINN) lectotype, sel. by Rechinger, Flora Iranica, 162: 345 (1987).

D Hundepersille. F hukanputki. I villisteinselja. N hundepersille. S vildpersilja.

Literature. Fabri 1989, Fröberg 2000, Reduron 2007, Thellung 1926, Weimarck 1945.

Annual or biennial herb, very variable in size (see varieties), with a simple or branched tap­root. Stem solid or hollow; basal part angular to terete; upper internodes angular to sulcate. Leaves with varying number at the base and along the stem (see varieties), one of the five lowest leaves is usually the largest; sheath rather broad, usually not violet, in upper leaves distinctly membrane-bordered and with rounded tips; petiole 1.6–7.5 cm; blade 1–3-pinnate. Primary leaflets 1–5 pairs; angle leaflet/rachis 40–65°, longest petiolules 3–32 mm. Ultimate leaflets 3(–4)-pinnatifid, with 3–6 pairs of lobes; petiolule 5–21(–27) mm; base shortly attenuate to shallowly cordate. Apical lobe with a length/width ratio of 1.3–3.2(–5.3) in lower leaves, and 2.5–7.8(–13) in upper leaves.
Umbels convex, 1.5–2.5 cm high and 2–7 cm wide; rays straight, winged and distinctly papillose on the adaxial side. Bracts 0(–1). Umbellules 5–33; pedicels winged and ± papillose on the adaxial side. Bractlets 2–8 (usually 3), assembled on the abaxial side of the ray and deflexed, persistent; whitish borders only at the base or absent. Flowers ± zygomorphic; sepals absent; petals white with a brown-red midrib, 1–2.2 × 1–2.2 mm, bifid (apical cut 0.4–1.3 mm deep); filaments 0.8–1.4 mm; anthers 0.3–0.4 mm. Fruit ovate in outline, not flattened; carpophore filiform, divided to the base. Mericarps straw-coloured (green as fresh); ridges 5, in cross section high, broad and rounded; valleculae narrow, each with one red-brown vitta; stylopodium flattened to conical, 0.4–0.5 mm wide; style 0.4–0.7 mm, deflexed.
2n=20 (F U). – [2n=20, 22]
Distribution. Nem–SBor(–MBor). – Archaeophytic in the southern parts north to at least southern F, central S and the southern and western coasts of N; a later introduction further north. – D common to fairly common in most areas, but in Jylland scattered in the north and fairly rare in the west. N scattered to rare along the coast and the fjords from Øf to southern SF; further north casual to SNo Vefsn, Tr Tromsø. S common to fairly common north to eastern Dls, southern Vrm, southeastern Vsm and throughout Upl, but less common in the uplands; further north mostly ephemeral, northernmost records Nb Piteå 1908 (ballast) and 2003 (refuse tip), and PL Arvidsjaur 1961 (railway station). F strongly declining but still persistent (or, at least, appearing repeatedly on disturbed ground) in the oldest population centres in the southwest, often in manor or vicarage gardens. Clearly archaeophytic in at least A, V and western U, apparently resident also in the coastal regions of eastern U (Porvoo, Pernaja, Loviisa), in the vicinity of Rauma and Pori in coastal St and in some villages or towns in EK, EH and ES; further north clearly casual (mostly on ballast) in coastal towns: EP Kristiinankaupunki (records 1894–1963), Vaasa between 1880 and 1951, KP Kokkola late 1800s, OP Oulu late 1800s, 1912, 2003 and PeP Kemi 1883. I IVe Reykjavík 1966.
Europe, except the Mediterranean and the extreme north; introduced in North America.
Habitat. In full sun to light shade on dry to mesic ground; preferably on bare nutrient- and mull-rich soil and often in boundary zones in ± man-influenced places, e.g., in gardens, farms, roadsides, fields, ruderal ground, seashores and woodland (details under the varieties).
Biology. Aethusa cynapium has usually been regarded as poisonous; reports on active substances and toxic effects are somewhat contradictory (French 1971, Reduron 2007, Thellung 1926). Flowers all bisexual, except for the central flowers in the umbellules of the tertiary umbels which are usually male.
Variation and taxonomy. Aethusa cynapium is extremely variable in, e.g., life form, size, position of branches, degree of leaf division, pigmentation, length of peduncles, number of rays, and size of bractlets. Several taxa at and below species level have been described within the genus; there is a comprehensive presentation of previous taxonomic views in Thellung (1926). He accepted one species with four varieties, namely var. cynapioides (=var. cynapium sensu Flora Nordica; tall, with short bractlets and leaves with narrow lobes), var. gigantea (tall, with long bractlets), var. domestica (medium-sized, with long bractlets) and var. agrestis (small, annual, with short peduncles and bractlets). Subsequent works have usually accepted only three taxa with varying nomenclature: one small, one medium-sized and one tall.
The tall taxon has been claimed to have bractlets that are either longer than the umbellule (Tutin 1968, Weimarck 1963), or ± shorter than the umbellule (Fabri 1989, Gerstberger 1988, Stace 1991, Mossberg et al. 1992).
The shape of the apical leaf-lobes has also been used to distinguish taxa. Several authors argue that this is not a good diagnostic character because there is variation even within the same individual; however, that is due to heterophylly (the lower leaves have distinctly shorter apical lobes than the upper ones), and the character is useful provided leaves at the same level are studied.
There are certain differences in habitat selection; Reduron (2007) combined habitat preferences and life form with umbel and plant size to distinguish between subsp. elata (a large biennial occurring in natural, ± shady habitats) and subsp. cynapium (a medium-sized to small annual occurring in man-made, ± sunny habitats). Subsp. elata sensu Reduron corresponds to var. gigantea and var. cynapium, which do seem to be more frequent than the other varieties in seminatural habitats also in Norden, but all varieties are frequent in man-made habitats; therefore, habitat is not used here as a character.
As shown in cultivation experiments (Weimarck 1945), A. cynapium is extremely modifiable; less competition gave larger specimens, with umbels having longer peduncles, more umbellules with longer rays, and longer bractlets. Many very small specimens determined to var. agrestis have been found; they are disregarded in the present treatment of infraspecific variation (they were probably dwarfed due to strong competition and might belong to any of the varieties or intermediates). Characters which might be multiple expressions of one gene or gene complex (e.g., the length of the apical leaf-lobes and the length of the bractlets, or the size of the plant and the number of nodes below the primary umbel) should be supported by at least one supposedly independent character for a taxonomic recognition.
Although several of the characters are highly modificative, four fairly distinct groups can be distinguished in the Nordic material, which match the four varieties presented by Thellung (1926). Therefore, his taxonomy is applied here. However, more morphotypes than those that are described here do occur in the area, and all varieties except var. gigantea are somewhat heterogeneous; further studies of phenotype modification and genetic variation within the species, improving our understanding of the systematic importance of different characters, may well lead to a different taxonomic solution.
The accounts were based on specimens only, and a narrow definition of the varieties was used. When only such material that does not deviate much from the typical state of each variety is accepted, only a fairly small proportion of the herbarium material can be determined to variety level; however, the strict definitions made it possible to observe slight differences both in distribution and habitat selection, indicating that the varieties may respond differently to the environment.
For most provinces there are not enough specimens of any of the varieties for a judgement on residency and age; with few exceptions, the status shown is therefore that of the species, but the frequency reflects the number of vouchers.

Nomenclature. The medium-sized taxon with long bractlets (var. domestica sensu Thellung) has usually been regarded as the nominal variety/subspecies of A. cynapium (Thellung 1926, Tutin 1968). However, the specimen of A. cynapium in the Linnaean Herbarium chosen as a lectotype by Rechinger (1987) has short bractlets and narrow leaf-lobes (thus corresponding to var. cynapioides sensu Thellung).

Similar taxa see Conium maculatum and Petroselinum crispum.

1 Umbellules at least 14; plant usually taller than 60 cm when fully developed; lower leaves with 3–5 pairs of primary leaflets
- Umbellules up to 14; plant not taller than 70 cm; lower leaves with 1–3 pairs of primary leaflets
2 Bractlets 3–5, smaller than 14 × 0.7 mm; lower stem internodes usually distinctly swollen; apical lobes of upper leaves 1.2–2.3 mm wide
a. var. cynapium
- Bractlets 5–7, larger than 14 × 0.7 mm; lower stem internodes not distinctly swollen; apical lobes of upper leaves 2.2–4 mm wide
b. var. gigantea
3 Lower stem internodes angular to terete, rather slender and soft, usually hollow; widest stem/branch angle 40–65°; peduncle of primary umbel longer than 4 cm after anthesis
c. var. domestica
- Lower stem internodes ± angular, stouter and more rigid, solid; widest stem/branch angle 60–85°; peduncle of primary umbel shorter than 4 cm after anthesis
c. var. agrestis

a. var. cynapium              map              ill.

Aethusa cynapioides M. Bieb. (1808). – A. cynapium subsp. cynapioides (M. Bieb.) Nyman (1879). – A. cynapium var. cynapioides (M. Bieb.) Ficinus & Heynh. (1838).
F rikkahukanputki. S smal vildpersilja.
Therophyte or hemicryptophyte (biennial); 60–200 cm. Stem with the lowest branch at the fourth to sixth node, and the widest stem/branch angle 30–60°; basal part hollow, 4–8 mm thick, terete, usually distinctly swollen between the nodes, usually distinctly violet, ± glaucous. Leaves 2–14 at the base and 7–12 on the stem (basal and lowermost stem leaves usually withered at anthesis). Blade of lower leaves 2(–3)-pinnate, with 3–5 pairs of primary leaflets, 7–16 × 5–9 cm (length/width ratio 1–1.6). Blade of ultimate leaflets with 3–5 pairs of primary lobes, 21–34 × 13–23 mm, with a length/width ratio of 1.4–1.7(–2); tips acute, whitish or slightly violet. Apical lobe 3.3–9.7 × 1.1–2.2 mm (in upper leaves 4.2–13 × 1.2–2.3 mm).
Peduncle of primary umbel 4.5–12 cm; angle peduncle/shoot (25–)35–60°. Rays 1.6–2.7 cm. Umbellules 14–24; pedicels 0.4–0.7 cm. Bractlets 3–5, 5.5–13 × 0.3–0.7 mm, usually about the same length as the umbellule. Flowers 13–29 per umbellule; petals 1.2–1.8 × 1.1–1.7 mm. Mericarps 2.4–3.8 × 2–3.3 × 0.9–1.7 mm (length/width ratio 1.1–1.3). – Mid-summer to late summer.
Distribution and habitat. – Mainly on strongly disturbed man-made ground (road-sides, fields, gardens and waste ground) but also in, e.g., woodland fringes, grassland, scree slopes (N Ho); possibly calciphilous. – D fairly common to fairly rare throughout. N collected at least a few times from most coastal provinces north to SF. S unevenly distributed north to Vrm Kila, Vsm Västerås and Upl Ärentuna.. F specimens seen from V Karjalohja, Masku and Turku, U Espoo, Hanko, Helsinki, Porvoo and Vantaa.
Outside Norden scattered in C and W Europe.

Variation. Some specimens of var. cynapium (e.g. from S Sk, Klm and Upl) deviate in having less divided leaves with distinctly elongated apical leaf-lobes. – Dwarfed specimens with a reduced number of umbellules are frequently seen; since they lack several diagnostic features a classification to subspecies will be uncertain, and they were disregarded in the present study.

b. var. gigantea Lej.            map              ill.

Lejeune, Fl. Spa: 62 (1824). – Described from Belgium.
Aethusa cynapium subsp. elata (Friedl. ex Fisch.) Schübl. & G. Martens (1834). – A. cynapium var. elata (Friedl. ex Fisch.) Gaudin (1828).

D Stor Hundepersille. F isohukanputki. N skogspersille. S stor vildpersilja.

Hemicryptophyte (biennial) or therophyte (winter-annual); to 200 cm. Stem with the lowest branch at the first to the fourth node, and the widest stem/branch angle 30–50°; basal part hollow, 7–17 mm thick, terete, not to slightly swollen between the nodes, ± violet, ± glaucous. Leaves 9–20 at the base and 8–11 on the stem (usually not withered at anthesis). Blade of lower leaves 2–3-pinnate, with 3–5 pairs of primary leaflets, 16–31 × 10–26 cm (length/width ratio 1.2–1.8). Blade of ultimate leaflets with 4–6 pairs of primary lobes, 30–42 × 22–35 mm (length/width ratio 1.1–1.6); tips acute to mucronate, white or slightly violet. Apical lobe 4.5–7.7 × 1.8–3.2 mm (in upper leaves 7–18(–27) × 2.2–3.6(–4.2) mm).
Peduncle of primary umbel 6–19 cm; angle peduncle/shoot 30–55°. Rays 2.6–3.6 cm. Umbellules 18–33; pedicels 0.6–0.9 cm. Bractlets (3–)5–7, 16–31 × 0.7–1.8 mm, c. 2–3 times as long as the umbellule. Flowers 17–22 per umbellule; petals 1.8–1.9 × 1.9–2.2 mm. Mericarps 3.8–4.4 × 2.7–3.1 × 1.4–1.6 mm, with a length/width ratio of 1.2–1.4 (measured on one specimen). – Early summer to late summer.
Distribution and habitat. – Mainly on strongly disturbed man-made ground (e.g. road-sides, farms and ruderal ground), rarely in, e.g., woodland fringes (records from D, S Sk); possibly calciphilous; more rarely collected than var. cynapium. – D Sjæ, LFM, FyL and northern ØJy (also woodland specimens), and NJy. N specimens seen from Ak Oslo 1921 (garden), 1935, 1936, Bærum 1919 and Frogn 1921, Vf Larvik 1894, 1997 (roadside), Te Porsgrunn 1949, AA Tvedestrand 1983. S north to BhG Kungshamn, Nrk Örebro and Upl Uppsala. F specimens seen from V Turku 1862, 1907, U Helsinki 1946, 1999, Porvoo 1952. – A specimen reported from F EH Tampere (Kääntönen et al. 2005) was redetermined to A. cynapium (intermediate between var. cynapium and var. gigantea).
Outside Norden in C Europe; probably rare.

c. var. domestica Wallr.            map              ill.

Wallroth, Sched. crit.: 119 (1822). – Described from Germany.
Aethusa cynapium subsp. cynapium auct., non L.

D Almindelig Hundepersille. F tarhahukanputki. N vanleg hundepersille. S trädgårdsvildpersilja.

Therophyte (summer-annual); 30–70 cm. Stem with the lowest branch at the second to the third node, and the widest stem/branch angle 40–65°; basal part hollow, 2–4 mm thick, angular to terete, not swollen between the nodes, ± violet, not to slightly glaucous. Leaves 1–3 at the base and 3–5 on the stem (usually not withered at anthesis). Blade of lower leaves 1–2-pinnate, with 1–3 pairs of primary leaflets, 6–11 × 6–10 cm (length/width ratio 0.9–1.4). Blade of ultimate leaflets with 3–5 pairs of primary lobes, 23–46 × 16–37 mm (length/width ratio 1–1.6); tips acute to acuminate, white. Apical lobe 2.1–8.3 × (1.6–)1.9–3 mm (in upper leaves 7–18(–24) × 2.1–4.7 mm).
Peduncle of primary umbel 4.2–17 cm; angle peduncle/shoot 45–60°. Rays 1.3–1.8 cm. Umbellules 7–14; pedicels 0.3–0.8 cm. Bractlets 3(–4), 11–17(–22) × 0.5–1(–1.3) mm. Flowers 9–17 per umbellule; petals 1.2–2.2 × 1.1–2.1 mm. Mericarps 2.3–3.6 × 1.9–2.8 × 1–1.8 mm, with a length/width ratio of 1.3–1.8 (measured on few specimens). – Late summer to autumn.
Distribution and habitat. – Almost exclusively on bare soil strongly influenced by man (e.g. as a garden weed, in farms, along roads and railways, on earth piles and waste ground); reaching further north than var. cynapium. – D scattered (at least in ØJy and the islands) to rare; recorded from woodland in D Sjæ. N scattered in the southeastern parts and along the coast to SF Flora; ST Trondheim and SNo Vefsn. S mainly in the southern lowlands, fairly common to fairly rare, recorded north to Dls Ör, Vrm Karlskoga, Dlr Bjursås and Upl Uppsala; Mpd Timrå 1944, Ång Härnösand 1864, Vb Bygdeå 1920 (ballast) and Bureå 1933 (courtyard). in the southwest; north to EH Tampere; ES Lappeenranta. I IVe Reykjavík 1966.
Outside Norden in C Europe (scattered, perhaps mainly in the eastern parts).

d. var. agrestis Wallr.            map              ill.

Wallroth, Sched. crit.: 119 (1822). – A. cynapium subsp. agrestis (Wallr.) Dostál (1949). – Described from Germany.
Aethusa cynapium subsp. segetalis (Boenn.) Schübl. & G. Martens (1834).

D Liden Hundepersille. F rikkahukanputki. N møllepersille. S liten vildpersilja.

Therophyte (summer-annual); 8–40 cm. Stem solid, with the lowest branch at the first to fourth node, and the widest stem/branch angle 60–85°; basal part 2.5–4(–6.5) mm thick, usually angular, not swollen between the nodes, ± violet, not to slightly glaucous. Leaves 2–3 at the base and 4–5 on the stem (usually not withered at anthesis). Blade of lower leaves 1–2-pinnate, with 1–3 pairs of primary leaflets, 3–7 × 1.8–8 cm (length/width ratio 0.9–1). Blade of ultimate leaflets with 3–4 pairs of primary lobes, 15–24 × 14–27 mm (length/width ratio 0.9–1.1); tips acute to acuminate, white. Apical lobe 1.9–4.9 × 1.2–3.6 mm (in upper leaves 5–12 × (1.2–)1.6–2.9 mm).
Peduncle of primary umbel 1.3–3.8 cm; angle peduncle/shoot 45–85°. Rays 0.7–1.5 cm. Umbellules 6–15; pedicels 0.2–0.3 cm. Bractlets 3, 5–13 × 0.4–0.6 mm. Flowers 9–20 per umbellule; petals 1–1.8 × 1–1.6 mm. Mericarps 2.7–3.7 × 2–2.8 × 1.2–1.3 mm (length/width ratio 1.4–1.5). – Late summer.
Distribution and habitat. – Only in the south; almost exclusively on strongly man-influenced bare soil (e.g. fallow fields, ruderal ground, gardens); calciphilous. – D NJy Fjerritslev 2003, FyL Gudme 2001 and Ullerslev 2006, Sjæ seen from 18 localities scattered on the island; LFM Maribo 1999 (filling earth), Nysted (fallow field), Brn Rønne 1987 (garden). S Sk seen from10 localities in the western and northeastern lowlands, Bl Karlskrona 1997 (refuse tip), Öl Kastlösa 1907, Hl Falkenberg 1905, BhG Göteborg 1967 (mill), Öckerö 1945. – Records from mills on the southern coast in N (Lid & Lid 2005) are due to misidentifications; specimens from Srm (Rydberg & Wanntorp 2001) have not been checked.
Outside Norden in C Europe, probably rare.

References To top

Fabri, R. 1989: Variabilité d’Aethusa cynapium L. (Apiaceae) en Belgique. Bull. Jard. Bot. Nat. Belg. 59: 351–366.

French, D.H. 1971: Ethnobotany of the Umbelliferae. In V.H. Heywood (ed.) The biology and chemistry of the Umbelliferae: 385–412. London. [Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 64, suppl. 1]

Fröberg, L. 2000: Fyra vildpersiljor istället för tre? Svensk Bot. Tidskr. 94: 189–198.

Gerstberger, P. 1988: Zur Kenntnis von Aethusa cynapium subsp. cynapioides (M. Bieb.) Nyman in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Tuexenia 8: 3–12.

Kääntönen, M., Korte, K., Kosonen, L. & Lahtonen, T. 2005: Tampereen Niemen alueen kasvistomysteeri. Lutukka 21: 89–95.

Lid, J. & Lid, D.T. 2005: Norsk flora. Ed. 7 revised by R. Elven. Det norske samlaget, Oslo.

Mossberg, B., Stenberg, L. & Ericsson, S. 1992: Den nordiska floran. Stockholm.

Rechinger, K.H. 1987: Umbelliferae. In K.H. Rechinger (ed.), Flora Iranica 162: 344–345. Graz.

Reduron, J.-P. 2007: Ombellifères de France 1 [Introduction + Aciphylla–Bunium]. Bulletin de la Société Botanique de Centre-Ouest Nouvelle série 26.

Rydberg, H. & Wanntorp, H.-E. 2001: Sörmlands flora. Västervik.

Stace, C. 1991: New flora of the British Isles. Cambridge.

Thellung, A. 1926: Umbelliferae. In G. Hegi (ed.), Illustrierte Flora von Mitteleuropa 5: 926–1537. München.

Tutin, T.G. 1968: Aethusa. In T.G. Tutin et al. (eds), Flora Europaea 2: 339–340. Cambridge.

Weimarck, H. 1945: Experimental taxonomy in Aethusa cynapium. Bot. Not. 1945: 351–380.

Weimarck, H. 1963: Skånes flora. Lund.