Species distinguishing characteristics:
- Oval- to heart-shaped seeds with 2 papery wings and 3 ridges
- Plants with more than one umbel
- Bracts at base of umblets lacking
- Foliage has a pungent, parsley- or celery-like odor when crushed
- Leaf stalks sheath the stem
- Small flowers in umbels, clusters that radiate from a single point at the end of a stalk
- Flowers have 5 petals, 5 sepals, and 5 stamens
- All plant parts contain aromatic, volatile oils
- 2-celled fruits with halves joined face-to-face
- Stems are hollow between leaf joints and often have vertical ribs
- Members of this family are used as culinary spices (e.g., dill, cilantro/coriander, fennel, caraway)
- Family members include some of the most poisonous plants in North America
Perennial, 50–200 cm tall, usually with a single stem.
Leaves and stems:
Stout, hollow, vertically ribbed stems are smooth (not hairy). Alternate leaves have stalks that sheath the stem. Leaves are divided into egg-shaped to narrowly oval, sharp-toothed leaflets, 3–12 cm long. Leaflets have veins directed to the tips of teeth that are close to reaching the edges, but no veins to the notch between teeth. Foliage has a pungent, parsley- or celery-like odor when crushed.
Numerous, small white (occasionally pinkish) flowers in a large flat-topped cluster (compound umbel). Each plant has more than one umbel. Bracts, found at the base of each flower cluster in the umbel (umblet), are inconspicuous or lacking. Flowers attract beetles (Coleoptera spp.).
Large taproot often divided into big branches with tan root bark.
Corky, tan-colored seeds, 4–7 mm long, are oval to heart-shaped in outline and are flattened in cross section. Seeds have 2 broad, papery wings and 3 ridges on the surface. Seeds are prominent when stalks dry in the fall and look like a burst of fireworks.
Moist forests, wet meadows, marshes, aspen groves, stream banks, and avalanche areas at low to subalpine elevations.
Important spring forage for bears (Ursus spp.). Chewing the roots may relieve colds and sore throats, and the roots can be used in tincture form as an antispasmodic and treatment for intestinal and menstrual cramps. Use caution as roots contain coumarins (blood-thinning compounds) and may be toxic if eaten fresh. Seeds in tea or tincture form may treat acid indigestion and nausea.