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Milk Parsley

Thyselium palustre

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
Fens, floodplains, meadows, riversides, waterside, wetland.

White, 5 petals
The white flowers appear in umbels measuring 3 to 8cm across. Petals are notched at their tips. The bracts of the flowers are all reflexed. Milk Parsley is the favourite food plant of the rare Swallowtail butterfly.
The flattened, oval fruits have 2 short styles and 2 pairs of wings.
A hairless biennial or short-lived perennial plant whose leaves are 2 to 4-pinnate. The leaflets are deeply cut with blunt tips.
Other Names:
Cow Parsley, Marsh Hog's Fennel, Marsh Parsley, Marsh Thistle, Water Parsley.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Thyselium palustre, commonly known as Marsh thistle, is a species of flowering plant in the Asteraceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and is typically found growing in wet meadows, along streams, and other damp habitats. It has large, spiny leaves, and purple or pink flower heads that bloom in the summer. The plant reproduces by seed and it's easy to grow, it can be grown from seed or by root division. It's also used in traditional medicine and it's considered a threatened species in some areas due to habitat loss.


Milk Parsley, also known as Thyselium palustre, is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It belongs to the family Apiaceae, which includes other well-known plants such as celery, parsley, and carrot. The plant can grow up to two feet tall and has small, white flowers that bloom in clusters during the summer months.

Historically, Milk Parsley has been used for medicinal purposes. It was believed to have diuretic properties and was used to treat kidney stones and urinary tract infections. The plant was also used to soothe skin irritations and was applied topically to treat cuts and bruises.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Milk Parsley has culinary uses as well. The leaves and stems of the plant have a mild flavor that is similar to parsley and can be used in salads or as a garnish. The seeds can also be used as a spice, similar to caraway seeds.

Despite its many uses, Milk Parsley is not commonly cultivated and is often considered a weed. It grows in wetlands and marshes and can be found throughout Europe and Asia. In fact, the plant is often used as an indicator of wetland conditions and its presence can help identify areas where restoration efforts may be needed.

Unfortunately, the habitat of Milk Parsley is under threat due to habitat loss and degradation. Wetlands and marshes are often drained or converted for agricultural or urban development, which can have a significant impact on the plant and the ecosystem it supports. Conservation efforts are underway to protect these habitats and ensure the survival of Milk Parsley and other wetland species.

Milk Parsley has a long and rich history in folklore and traditional medicine. The plant was believed to have magical properties and was used to ward off evil spirits and protect against witches. It was also thought to have aphrodisiac qualities and was used as a love potion.

In traditional medicine, Milk Parsley was used to treat a variety of ailments including digestive issues, menstrual cramps, and respiratory problems. It was also used as a general tonic to improve overall health and wellbeing.

Modern research has confirmed some of the plant's traditional uses. Studies have found that Milk Parsley has diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties and may be useful in the treatment of kidney stones and urinary tract infections. The plant has also shown potential in treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Milk Parsley is a hardy plant that is easy to grow in wet or marshy areas. It can be propagated through seed or by dividing the root ball of established plants. The plant prefers moist, nutrient-rich soil and partial to full sun.

While Milk Parsley is not commonly cultivated, it has the potential to be a valuable addition to herb gardens and wetland restoration projects. Its mild flavor and versatility make it a useful culinary herb, and its medicinal properties make it a valuable resource for traditional and alternative medicine.

One interesting fact about Milk Parsley is that it contains a compound called furanocoumarin, which can cause photosensitivity in some people. This means that exposure to sunlight after handling or consuming the plant can cause skin rashes or other reactions. It is important to be aware of this potential side effect when using or handling Milk Parsley.

Another fascinating aspect of Milk Parsley is its ecological importance. The plant provides food and habitat for a variety of insects, including butterflies and moths. It is also an important food source for waterfowl and other wetland birds. In addition, the roots of Milk Parsley help to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion in wetland habitats.

Despite its many benefits, Milk Parsley is not without its challenges. The plant is often considered a weed and can spread rapidly in wetland areas. This can have a negative impact on native plant and animal species, as well as on the overall health of the ecosystem. It is important to manage Milk Parsley populations carefully to ensure that they do not become invasive.

Milk Parsley is also known by other common names, including Cow Parsley, Marsh Parsley, and Water Parsley. Its scientific name, Thyselium palustre, is derived from the Greek word "thyrsos", which means "wand" or "staff", and the Latin word "palustre", which means "marshy". This name reflects the plant's appearance and habitat.

In some cultures, Milk Parsley has been associated with death and mourning. In ancient Greece, the plant was often depicted in funeral art and was believed to have a connection to the underworld. In England, the plant was sometimes referred to as "Mother Die" and was thought to be a harbinger of death.

Despite its association with death, Milk Parsley has also been used as a symbol of new beginnings and renewal. In some pagan traditions, the plant is associated with the spring equinox and the rebirth of nature. It is sometimes used in rituals and ceremonies to represent the cycle of life and death.

In terms of cultivation, Milk Parsley is relatively easy to grow and requires minimal care. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate a range of soil types and conditions. However, it is important to be aware of its potential to become invasive in wetland areas and to manage it carefully to prevent its spread.

In conclusion, Milk Parsley is a plant with a rich history and a range of cultural and ecological significance. Its potential as a valuable resource for traditional medicine, cuisine, and wetland restoration make it a plant worth considering for gardens and conservation efforts. However, it is important to be aware of its potential challenges and to manage it carefully to ensure that it does not become invasive or harmful to native plant and animal species.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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