Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wild Chervil Gone Wild!

When the New York Flora Association sent me a list of plants that are missing from the NYFA Plant Atlas for Saratoga County, I could hardly believe that Wild Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris) had not yet been recorded.  For this is a plant that is truly going wild!  I've been observing the explosion of this introduced Parsley-family plant along the Kayaderosseras Creek near Ballston Spa for several years now, and every year  I have seen it take over more and more of the creek bank and edges of the nearby open meadow.  I visit this site many times during the growing season, delighting in the variety of beautiful and interesting native wildflowers that grow here, but every year the Wild Chervil pushes more and more of them aside.  When I visited the site today, I was dismayed to see how extensive its invasion had become.

For the moment, these Ostrich Ferns seem to be holding their own against the swells of Wild Chervil attempting to swamp them, but I wonder how many more years they can hold out.

The umbellate flowers of Wild Chervil resemble those of many other Parsley-family plants, like Queen Anne's Lace or Poison Hemlock, but they have a delicate anise-like fragrance all their own.  I can understand why this species was introduced to America's gardens from Eurasia, but I sure wish it hadn't been.

Wild Chervil leaves are really quite pretty, deeply cut and quite fern-like in appearance.  But they spread across the muddy soil of the creek bank so densely that no other plants can get a foothold.

Well, here was one plant that managed to squeeze in among the Wild Chervil.  This is another introduced garden escapee, this one called Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis), and it, too, has a tendency to become invasive.  It's interesting to see what happens when two bullies like this jostle for position.  Certainly, Wild Chervil outnumbers Dame's Rocket at this location, but there were many of these pretty purple and white flowers to be seen pushing up among the white umbels.  This too, is a species not yet recorded for Saratoga County, so I was able to collect in this one trip specimens of both of these plants, which I will press and dry and send off to NYFA to become officially documented.

I think of this Kayaderosseras Creek bank as a place where plant bullies battle constantly for position. Some of our most vigorous native plants, like Jewelweed, Giant Ragweed, Wild Bergamot, Pokeweed, and Stinging Nettles have somehow managed to thrive against the onslaught of Japanese Knotweed and other invasives, including the Wild Chervil.  At least, to date they have.  And I bet this meadow-full of Canada Anemone (Anemone canadense), opening now, will push back strongly against the tide of Wild Chervil.  At least, I hope so.

Some people consider Canada Anemone a kind of invasive species, too, but it is a wildflower native to this part of the country, so I would say it has the right to grow abundantly.  Besides, it is awfully pretty!


The Furry Gnome said...

Wild Chervil is one of those plants we share with you. In fact Grey County here seems to be the heart of its invasion in Ontario.

Mr. Dave said...

That purple flower is blue phlox I believe. Saw it along the Delmar rail trail too.

Mr. Dave said...

Oops, reread. It's dames rocket. Looks like the phlox, but with 4 petals.

Ron Gamble said...

Wild Chervil :-( . We've had a significant increase in that here in SE Michigan this spring too. I collected it for Herbarium last year; if you handle it, use caution, as exposure made my hands and arms itch later for a number of hours.

Anonymous said...

Jackie, Are the lupine in bloom yet? I treasure the photos you've taken of the pine barren! If the rains hold off long enough, maybe you can get there this weekend? I just love your blog!!! MKJ

threecollie said...

Thanks to this post I recognized wild chervil when we drove past the Auriesville Shrine this morning. So, thanks!