Open the Advanced Search

Parsley Water Dropwort

Oenanthe lachenalii

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, floodplains, grassland, heathland, marshes, meadows, ponds, riverbanks, saltmarshes, seaside, waterside, wetland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
The tiny white flowers (sometimes tinged pink) appear in umbels. The umbels are 5 or 6cm across. The bracts below the umbels are narrow. The similar looking Tubular Water Dropwort has (usually) no bracts at all.
The fruit of Parsley Water Dropwort is a small, ribbed, and oblong-shaped achene. The achene is a dry, one-seeded fruit, typical of plants in the carrot family (Apiaceae). The seeds are small and may have a flattened or oval shape. These fruits are produced in clusters and contribute to the reproductive cycle of the plant. It's important to note that while the fruit contains seeds, other parts of the plant, especially the leaves and roots, can be toxic and should be handled with caution.
The leaves of Parsley Water Dropwort are finely divided and resemble those of parsley. They have a delicate and feathery appearance, with multiple lobes or leaflets arranged along the stem. The leaflets are deeply incised, giving them a lacy or fern-like texture. The overall structure of the leaves contributes to the plant's graceful and elegant appearance. It's essential to note that while the leaves share visual similarities with culinary parsley, parts of this plant can be toxic and should not be consumed without proper knowledge and caution.
When the leaves of Parsley Water Dropwort are crushed, they may release a mild and parsley-like aroma. This aroma is often subtle and fresh, reminiscent of the scent associated with culinary parsley. However, it's important to note that the plant also contains toxic compounds, particularly in its roots and leaves. Therefore, any handling or interaction with Parsley Water Dropwort should be approached with caution, and it is not recommended for culinary use without proper knowledge and expertise.
Other Names:
Water Parsley.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Oenanthe lachenalii 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.


Parsley Water-dropwort, scientifically known as Oenanthe lachenalii, is a perennial herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and can be found in moist meadows, damp pastures, and riverbanks.

The plant is easily recognizable by its delicate white or pale pink flowers that bloom in summer and early autumn. Its stems grow up to 60 cm tall and are topped with umbel-like clusters of tiny flowers. The leaves of the Parsley Water-dropwort are pinnately divided, giving it a fern-like appearance, and have a strong parsley-like aroma.

Despite its attractive appearance, the Parsley Water-dropwort is highly toxic to humans and animals. All parts of the plant contain a toxic alkaloid that can cause severe symptoms like convulsions, hallucinations, and even death if ingested. Ingestion of the plant can cause symptoms within a few hours and the severity of the symptoms depends on the amount consumed.

In traditional medicine, the root of the Parsley Water-dropwort was used as a remedy for digestive problems and as a diuretic. However, due to its toxicity, its use as a medicinal plant is no longer recommended.

The Parsley Water-dropwort is a beautiful but dangerous plant. Despite its potential for medicinal use, it should not be consumed or used for medicinal purposes due to its toxicity. Instead, it can be appreciated for its ornamental value and used as a decorative plant in gardens and parks.

In addition to its toxic properties, the Parsley Water-dropwort is also known to be an invasive species in some parts of the world. It has been introduced to other regions as an ornamental plant, but has since escaped cultivation and spread into the wild. In these regions, the plant can displace native vegetation and negatively impact biodiversity.

Control measures, such as manual removal and herbicide application, are necessary to prevent the spread of the Parsley Water-dropwort. In some countries, the sale and distribution of the plant is restricted in an effort to prevent its introduction into new areas.

Despite its harmful effects, the Parsley Water-dropwort does provide some benefits to wildlife. The tiny flowers are a source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, and the plant is also an important food source for the larvae of some butterfly species.

The Parsley Water-dropwort is also known by several other common names, such as Hemlock Water-dropwort, and Dead Man's Fingers. These names reflect the plant's toxic properties and its danger to humans and animals. The plant has been used as a poison for centuries and has been associated with several historical poisonings. In ancient Greece, it was used to poison food and drink, and it was also used as a method of execution.

In folklore and mythology, the Parsley Water-dropwort is often associated with death and the underworld. It was believed to have been used by the ancient Greeks to communicate with the dead, and it was also believed to have protective properties that could ward off evil spirits.

Despite its toxic nature, the Parsley Water-dropwort has been used as a source of food in some cultures. In Korea, the root of the plant is consumed after being carefully processed to remove its toxic alkaloids. This traditional Korean dish is called “sansai” and is considered a delicacy in some regions.

In conclusion, the Parsley Water-dropwort is a plant with a rich cultural and historical significance. Its toxic properties have made it both a source of fear and a source of fascination, and its use as a poison and a food source has made it an important plant in human history. Despite its potential dangers, the plant continues to be appreciated for its ornamental value and its role in the ecosystem.

30 Facts Concerning Parsley Water Dropwort

  1. Scientific Name: Oenanthe lachenalii is the botanical name for Parsley Water Dropwort.
  2. Habitat: Native to Europe, it is commonly found in damp meadows, marshes, and along riverbanks.
  3. Flowering Time: Typically blooms from May to July, producing clusters of tiny white flowers.
  4. Leaf Structure: The leaves are finely divided, resembling parsley, and can be mistaken for other similar-looking plants.
  5. Culinary Uses: While parts of the plant are toxic, historical accounts suggest its occasional use in traditional cuisines for flavoring.
  6. Toxicity Warning: Certain parts of Parsley Water Dropwort contain toxic compounds, especially the roots and leaves, and should not be consumed without proper knowledge.
  7. Height: It generally reaches a height of 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 inches).
  8. Root System: The plant has a tuberous root system, contributing to its ability to thrive in wet conditions.
  9. Adaptability: Parsley Water Dropwort can tolerate partial shade but prefers full sun exposure.
  10. Aquatic Nature: Well-adapted to aquatic environments, it often grows at the water's edge or in shallow water.
  11. Invasive Potential: Due to its ability to spread rapidly, it can become invasive in certain areas.
  12. Pollinator Attraction: The flowers attract various pollinators, including bees and hoverflies.
  13. Leaf Aroma: Crushing the leaves may release a mild parsley-like aroma.
  14. Traditional Medicine: Historically, extracts from Parsley Water Dropwort have been used in traditional medicine, though caution is advised.
  15. Edible Stalks: In some regions, the tender stalks are used in salads.
  16. Garden Ornamental: Apart from culinary and medicinal uses, it is cultivated for its ornamental value.
  17. Growth Form: It typically grows upright, with branching stems.
  18. Folklore: In folklore, the plant might have associations with certain myths or stories.
  19. Seed Characteristics: The seeds are small and often dispersed by water or animals.
  20. Conservation Concerns: Invasive tendencies raise concerns about its impact on native vegetation in some regions.
  21. Migratory Bird Interaction: Seeds can serve as a food source for migratory birds.
  22. Propagation Methods: It can be propagated through both seeds and division of the tuberous roots.
  23. Hardiness Zone: Parsley Water Dropwort is adapted to various hardiness zones.
  24. Traditional European Soups: In certain European regions, the plant might have historical culinary uses.
  25. Medicinal Properties: Some traditional practices suggest medicinal uses for skin conditions.
  26. Ethnobotanical Significance: It holds ethnobotanical importance in the cultural history of certain communities.
  27. Leaflet Color: Leaflets may vary in color, influenced by environmental factors.
  28. Vegetative Spread: Besides seeds, the plant can expand through vegetative means, forming dense colonies.
  29. Ecological Role: It plays a role in the ecosystem by contributing to nutrient cycling.
  30. Folk Medicine for Gastrointestinal Issues: Historical accounts indicate its use in traditional medicine for addressing certain gastrointestinal issues.


Parsley Water Dropwort filmed at Sandscale Haws in Cumbria on the 8th July 2023.


Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map