Fool’s Parsley

Poisonous Poisonous Spring Spring Summer Summer

Another poisonous fern leaved Apiaceae although this one is not considered as toxic as Hemlock. It is the only member of the Aethusa genus.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Fool’s Parsley, Fool's Cicely, Poison Parsley
Scientific Name Aethusa cynapium
Season Start Mar
Season End Sep
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.


A bit fern like with two to four pinnate divisions, the whole looking triangular in shape. The leaf stems have a groove down the middle, rather like Chervil, and are hairless, unlike Chervil or Wild Carrot . If crushed the leaves have an unpleasant smell.


Umbels of small, white, five petaled flowers with two to four downward pointing thin green bracts, generally biasing one side. Flowers from June to September.



The seeds are egg shaped with obvious grooves running from top to bottom.


Hollow, finely grooved and hairless, unlike the hairy stems of Chervil or Wild Carrot.


Can be found in fields, gardens, hedgerows, pavement edges and waste ground preferring it open and sunny without too much competition.

Possible Confusion

Can be mistaken for Chervil, Sweet Cicely or Wild Carrot although the leaves of Fool’s Parsley smell unpleasant and the stems are hairless, unlike the above. Could be mistaken for other more toxic members of the Apiaceae family with fern like leaves like Hemlock, pictured.


Unpleasant but with a slight parsley or even mild garlic like smell.


If eaten, Fool’s Parsley causes a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.


Fairly common.

Medicinal Uses

Although toxic, Fool’s Parsley has occasionally been used in medicine. The herb is a sedative and has been used in the treatment of gastro-intestinal problems and to treat convulsions. We do not recommend the use of this plant.


2 comments for Fool’s Parsley

  1. Nancy says:

    Hi Do you know if it is safe to burn Fools parsley in a smudge stick ? Thanks

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      As it is a toxic plant I would not recommend it for burning where you might inhale some smoke. Does anybody know otherwise?

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