Non-Native Invasive Species

Wild chervil

Anthriscus sylvestris

Wild chervil

Wild chervil
Photo: John Cardina, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Perhaps you've noticed lately, in the blur of green our roadsides have become, an occasional airy whiteness. The clouds of white blossoms site atop the ferny foliage of wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris), a member of the parsley family. It isn't found everywhere, but there's more of it this year than last year, and where it grows it grows in spades. That can mean only one thing: it's not from Vermont!

And it isn't. Wild chervil is native to Europe, and is apparently a treasured wildflower in the British Isles, where it is common along country lanes and in meadows. Sid Bosworth, a forage specialist with the UVM Extension System, suggests the plant was introduced here in seed mixes designed to imitate the plant communities of British hedgerows.

Wild chervil

Wild chervil
Photo: John Cardina, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

It doesn't stay in hedgerows here. Wild chervil is most commonly found along roadsides, where its abundantly produced seeds are spread by highway mowing crews, or along rivers and streams, where seed is transported by moving water. But it's increasingly found in hay fields and pastures, where it can kill off neighboring vegetation by shading it. And because its three- to five-foot stems are thick, it doesn't dry well, making for moldy hay. Wayside weediness is not particularly significant. (In fact, wild chervil is an attractive addition to our roadside flora.) But the plant's potential impact on grass-based agriculture is highly problematic.

Wild chervil is very difficult to control. The species is technically a biennial - it dies in the second year after setting seed - but if flowering stems are cut before seed is set, the plant may behave like a long-lived perennial. And while it does so, it increases by root buds, from a tap root as long as six feet. (Try pulling that!) Heavy seed set and root budding are a hard combination to defend against, which is why we'll be seeing more of this plant next year and in years to come.