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River Water Dropwort

Oenanthe fluviatilis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Ditches, meadows, riverbanks, riversides, water, waterside, wetland.

White, 5 petals
The flowers appear in umbels with no lower bracts.
The fruits are narrowly oval, 5mm across. They are slightly larger than those of the similar looking Fine-leaved Water Dropwort (Oenanthe aquatica).
A perennial with 2 to 4-pinnate leaves. The aerial leaves have narrow, wedge-shaped leaflets which are blunter than those of Fine-leaved Water Dropwort. Usually seen in faster flowing water than Fine-leaved Water Dropwort. Fine-leaved Water Dropwort is found in still or slow moving water. River Water Dropwort is found in rivers and streams.
Other Names:
European Water-dropwort, Fen Parsley, Hemlock Water-dropwort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Oenanthe fluviatilis, commonly known as River Waterdropwort, is a species of flowering plant in the Apiaceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and is found in wetlands, damp meadows and riverbanks. The species has a hollow stem and its flowers are white with a yellow center. It is poisonous and is often used in traditional medicine for treating a variety of ailments.


River Water-dropwort, Oenanthe fluviatilis, is a species of flowering plant found in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is a member of the Apiaceae (carrot) family and is known for its delicate, white flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer.

This plant is commonly found along the banks of rivers, streams, and other bodies of water, hence its common name. The stems of the plant can grow up to 1.5 meters tall and are covered in small, feathery leaves. The flowers are arranged in clusters and are typically less than 2 cm in diameter.

While River Water-dropwort is aesthetically pleasing, it is also considered a highly toxic plant. The entire plant, including the roots, leaves and stems, contains a potent toxin called oenanthotoxin. Ingestion of even small amounts of this plant can cause severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in severe cases.

Despite its toxic nature, River Water-dropwort has been used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments, including headaches, digestive problems, and as a pain reliever. However, its use is highly discouraged due to the risk of toxicity and the availability of safer, more effective treatments.

If you come across River Water-dropwort, it is important to take caution and avoid ingesting it. If you have pets or livestock, it is important to keep them away from this plant as well, as they are also at risk of toxicity if they ingest it.

In addition to its toxic properties, River Water-dropwort is also a highly invasive species. It has the ability to spread quickly and outcompete native plants, leading to a decline in biodiversity and changes to the ecosystem. This has led to it being classified as an invasive species in some countries and efforts to control its spread and promote the growth of native plant species.

In terms of conservation, River Water-dropwort is considered to be of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is because it is widely distributed and found in many countries, and its populations are generally stable. However, this may change if its invasive nature continues to have a negative impact on native species and ecosystems.

For those interested in gardening, River Water-dropwort is not recommended as a plant to cultivate due to its toxicity and potential to spread as an invasive species. Instead, consider planting native species that are not only safe but also support the local ecosystem and promote biodiversity.

River Water-dropwort may be aesthetically pleasing but its toxic nature and potential to spread as an invasive species make it a potential threat to both human and animal health, as well as the local ecosystem. If you encounter this plant, take caution and consider removing it to prevent the spread of this invasive species and promote the growth of native plants.

Additionally, it is important to note that River Water-dropwort has been used as a traditional food in some countries, such as Japan and South Korea. Despite its toxic properties, the roots and stems of the plant are peeled and boiled to remove the toxins before being consumed. However, this practice is highly discouraged due to the potential for toxicity, even if the plant has been properly prepared.

In terms of its impact on wildlife, River Water-dropwort can be toxic to a variety of animals, including livestock, domestic animals, and wild animals. Ingestion of the plant can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and even death in severe cases. It is important to be aware of the potential impact of this plant on local wildlife and take steps to prevent its spread in areas where it may pose a threat to animal health.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that River Water-dropwort is also known by several other common names, including Fen Parsley, Hemlock Water-dropwort, and European Water-dropwort. This plant can be easily confused with other species of the same family, so it is important to correctly identify it before taking any action.

In conclusion, River Water-dropwort is a beautiful but dangerous plant that has the potential to impact both human and animal health, as well as the local ecosystem. If you encounter this plant, take caution and consider removing it to prevent the spread of this invasive species and promote the growth of native plants. If you are considering using River Water-dropwort for traditional medicinal purposes, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional before doing so.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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