CAUTION! This plant contains toxins that cause minor skin irritation. When treating, wear appropriate clothing to prevent resinous substances from contacting skin.
Wild chervil is a member of the Apiaceae, or carrot, family. It produces a thick taproot that can be up to 2 m long. Its hollow stems grow up to 1.5 m tall and are branched, ridged, and pubescent and often have a slightly purplish hue at the base. Leaves are often characterized as fern-like, 2-3 pinnately compound, often dentate, and pubescent on the underside. Each leaf clasps the stem with a somewhat inflated, slightly pubescent sheath. Wild chervil forms a compound umbel up to 6 cm in diameter with notched, creamy-white petals and tiny sepals. Seeds are small and shiny, dark brown or black.
Although generally considered a monocarpic, rosette-forming, biennial, under certain conditions wild chervil can behave as a perennial. When individuals are mown or grazed prior to flowering, they will reproduce vegetatively, as side rosettes until they are able to flower. In Vermont, wild chervil begins to grow immediately following snow-melt. It flowers by late May and early June, with seeds maturing in late June and July. As the seeds mature, the flowering stems die, leaving brown stalks bearing seeds that gradually fall from the plants throughout the summer. The basal rosette of leaves grows throughout the season, until it is covered by the first snow of winter. Vegetative reproduction occurs throughout the growing season, with young plantlets budding from the root crown, to which they remain attached throughout the first year.
Reproductive Strategy / Lifecycle:
Wild chervil reproduces mainly by seed and can briefly re-sprout from root buds. Large white umbels bloom in late May to June. Each flower of the umbel produces two joined seeds.