Hedge Parsley Weed (Torilis Arvensis)
The genus name Torilis means “turtle” or “sea turtle”. The species name Arvensis means “parsnip” or “hairy”, which refers to its hairy leaves.
There are over 1,000 known species of plants in the family Tiliae and there are many different subspecies within this genus. They range from small shrubs to large trees.
What Is Hedge Parsley?
Hedge parsley is a member of the mint family and it grows wild throughout much of Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. It’s common names include hollyhock, hawthorn or huckleberry. Its leaves are oval shaped with three leaflets at each end and they grow up to 6 inches long. The plant produces white flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall.
How To Identify Hedge Parsley Weed?
Hedge parsley is a weed that grows naturally in gardens and lawns. It tends to grow along roadsides, edges of fields, borders between fields and around hedges. It is not aggressive enough to cause problems when growing it indoors but it does spread quickly if allowed to become established outdoors. The plant has a strong, pungent odor that smells like parsnips but it tastes much more bitter.
The weed has a number of subspecies including the Torilis arvensis arvensis, T. arvensis euxina, T.
arvensis pyrenaica and the T. arvensis rotundifolia. Although it looks different in each case, all subspecies have hairy, oval-shaped leaves with three to seven lobes. They grow from one to two feet tall and produce white or pink flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall.
Hedge parsley is also known as wild parsnip, hogweed, love lies bleeding, bear grass, swallow wort and fool’s parsley. It is a common weed of roadsides and cultivated fields across much of North America.
It can be found in every state except Hawaii.
The plant grows as a rosette of leaves with a single, thick hollow stem. The lower part of the hollow stem is flat and usually has thin brown hairs while the upper portion of the stem can be green, red or purple.
The top of the stem ends in a flat umbel of small white flowers.
Hedge parsley is not used for any practical purpose but it does have ornamental value.
The leaves, stems and umbel are all poisonous. The Torilis arvensis subspecies are toxic to animals and can cause blistering of the mouth and tongue if chewed.
The T. arvensis subspecies cause severe blistering of the mouth and throat if eaten, as well as stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea. The Torilis euxina subspecies cause fewer gastrointestinal problems but it can still be fatal if enough of the plant is eaten. The T. pyrenaica subspecies causes kidney damage in some animals and large quantities must be eaten before symptoms appear.
The toxic components are found throughout the plant but are most concentrated in the seeds. The plant is also mildly phototoxic, meaning that if an animal eats it and then sits in the sun, the animal will develop a painful skin rash.
Deaths from hedge parsley are rare but they do happen. Children have been known to drown in irrigation canals after eating the leaves and developing blistering lips.
Sheep, horses and cattle have been known to die after eating large quantities of the weed.
By far the most common victims are rabbits. Since they eat the leaves and stems, they suffer from both gastrointestinal and blistering problems.
Rabbits will sometimes eat the entire plant, roots and all. This can lead to a fatal case of gut-wrenching diarrhea that causes the animals to lose so much fluid their kidneys fail.
Within the past few years, several human deaths have been reported due to hedge parsley. The plant has a mild taste so some people (and rabbits) occasionally eat it unwittingly.
Children and animals are most at risk of death from the plant since they are less likely to know it is poisonous or suspect that it is.
Hedge parsley is not just an American problem. There have been reports of human deaths in Scotland and England as well.
More deaths are likely to occur since it has recently been introduced to Northern Europe and Canada.
Treatment consists of stomach pumping and supportive care. There is no antidote.
Seeds and plants can be legally purchased online. It is advised not to eat the plant or let pets or children eat it.
“A plant with a sinister reputation,” you think as you put the book down. “Just what I was looking for.”
You grab your keys and head to your car. You’ve had enough of reading for today.
Maybe you will read more about it later.
You pull out of the driveway and head home. You still have more plants to research.
You have a collection to build.
Sources & references used in this article:
Weed seedbank response to crop rotation and tillage in semiarid agroecosystems by J Dorado, JP Del Monte, C López-Fando – Weed Science, 1999 – JSTOR
Pollinator webs, plant communities and the conservation of rare plants: arable weeds as a case study by RH Gibson, IL Nelson, GW Hopkins… – Journal of applied …, 2006 – Wiley Online Library
Variations in the germination characteristics in response to environmental factors between the hairy and spiny seeds of hedge parsley (Torilis arvensis Huds.) by R Payamani, I Nosratti… – … Biology and Management, 2018 – Wiley Online Library
Seed ecology of Apiaceae weeds in pyrethrum by RP Rawnsley, AJ Gracie, PA Lane… – Seeds: Biology …, 2007 – books.google.com
The BCPC Weeds Review 2018 by K Pallett – Outlooks on Pest Management, 2019 – search.proquest.com