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wild chervil - click for larger image
History and impact

Wild chervil is a European species introduced to North America in wildflower seed mixes. It resembles other plants in the carrot/parsley family and is generally found in damp areas along roadways and in fields and pastures, but can tolerate a wide range of conditions. In farms, wild chervil can spread aggressively and choke out crops and desirable forage and hay species. In natural areas and forest edges, it can out-compete native plant species and reduce wildlife habitat.  Once it is established, wild chervil can be difficult and expensive to eradicate.

Legal status in King County, Washington

Public and private landowners are required to control infestations of wild chervil on their property in King County. Wild chervil is a Class B Noxious Weed in Washington, first listed in 1989. It is designated for required control in King County by the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board and is on the list of Regulated Class B Noxious Weeds in King County. For more information on noxious weed regulations and definitions, see Noxious weed lists and laws.

Identification (see below for additional photos)

  • wild chervil stem and leaf - click for larger image
    Upright, leafy perennial that grows up to 3 feet tall with many small white flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters.
  • Distinguished from similar plants by stems that are ribbed or furrowed, entirely green, hairy on the lower portion and smooth on the upper portions and with a fringe of hairs at the stem nodes
  • Small white flowers in 3 inch wide umbels (flower stalks originate from one point)
  • Bract-like leaves surround the base of the umbel
  • Plants bloom from April to May
  • wild chervil leaf - click for larger image
    Leaves are shiny and dark green, finely divided (ferny) with sharply pointed segments, and somewhat hairy
  • Leaves get smaller higher up on plant
  • Thick, tuberous roots can extend over 6 feet into the soil
  • Seeds are shiny and black, elongated oval shape, about 0.2 inches long and are in pairs joined with small antenna-like structures at the top

Look-alikes

Plants in the carrot/parsley family are difficult to distinguish.  The family includes many local native species, edible plants, ornamentals and many weeds, including some that are very poisonous. For a positive identification, you should consult a technical flora on the carrot family or contact the noxious weed program. Some of the closest weedy look-alikes are:

Bur chervil (Anthriscus caucalis)

Smaller (to 2 feet) and lighter green in color than wild chervil. Leaf segments are less pointed and leave are generally less stiff. Doesn't have bract-like leaves surrounding the base of the umbel like wild chervil does. Bur chervil's seeds are covered with velcro-like bristles, forming burrs that attach to equipment, clothing and fur.

Rough chervil (Chaerophyllum temulum)

About the same size as wild chervil, but distinguished by purple spots and hairs on the stems and lacking of ribbing/furrows and by more rounded leaf-segments that resemble cilantro more than carrots.

Poison-hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Generally much taller, up to 8-10 feet tall, with stout, round stems that are hairless and have distinctive red-purple spots or coloration on the stems. Leaves are large and finely divided like wild chervil but generally lighter green,  not hairy and with an unpleasant musty odor. CAUTION: Poison-hemlock is acutely toxic if ingested.

Wild carrot/Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota)

Flowers later in the summer than the others. Has one large (2-5 inches) densely packed flower cluster (compound umbel) on top of a mostly leafless stem (2 to 3 feet tall), with leaves mostly at the base of the plant. Flower cluster has a distinctive ring of long thin bracts around the base. Although wild carrot flowers are mostly white, the central flower in the umbel is usually reddish-purple. Stems are hairy, ridged and lack purple spots. Also, leaf segments are narrower than those of chervil and poison-hemlock.

Growth and habitat

wild chervil on the roadside - click for larger image
Wild chervil grows as a short-lived perennial or biennial. It has a deep, tuberous taproot and will re-grow from the crown if mowed or damaged.  It spreads by seed. Often found in rich, moist soils but able to grow in a wide range of conditions. In King County, it is mostly found in the southeast part of the county in the Enumclaw area. 

Wild Chervil begins growing early in the season so you should initiate a management plan by early May. Since this plant relies on seeds to reproduce, the control strategy should focus on stopping the plant from flowering and setting seed. This could involve weekly mowing, tillage followed by seeding of competitive vegetation, herbicides or a combination of the three. Control with herbicide can be enhanced with tillage one week after application followed by a mid-September seeding of perennial ryegrass, orchardgrass and tall fescue or similar grass species appropriate for the site.  Broadleaf selective herbicides are generally more effective than non-selective products like glyphosate because they allow the grass to suppress any surviving plants and prevent germination of chervil seeds. Wild chervil plants can also be dug up, but this can be difficult due to the deep roots and it is important to remove the entire root.  Plant may cause skin irritation so use caution and wear gloves when handling.

wild chervil flowers - click for larger image

Additional information and photos

What to do if you find this plant in King County, Washington

Please notify us if you see wild chervil growing in King County. Our program staff can provide the property owner or appropriate public agency with site-specific advice on how best to remove it. Also, because wild chervil is not well-established in King County, we have an opportunity to stop it from spreading if we act quickly. We map all known locations of regulated noxious weeds such as wild chervil in order to help us and others locate new infestations in time to control them.

Report wild chervil in King County, Washington

Locate wild chervil in King County, Washington

Related information

Related agencies


Program offices are located at 201 S. Jackson St., Suite 600, Seattle, WA 98104. To contact staff, see the Noxious Weed Control Program Directory, send an email, or call 206-477-WEED (206-477-9333).