Smyrnium olusatrum

Smyrnium olusatrum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Smyrnium
Species: S. olusatrum
Binomial name
Smyrnium olusatrum
Smyrnium olusatrum - MHNT

Smyrnium olusatrum, common name Alexanders,[1] is a cultivated flowering plant, belonging to the family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae).[2] It is also known as alisanders, horse parsley, and smyrnium. It was known to Theophrastus (9.1) and Pliny the Elder (N.H. 19.48).[3]


These stout plants grow to 150 centimetres (59 in) high, with a solid stem which becomes hollow and grooved[4] with age. The leaves are bluntly toothed, the segments ternately divided the segments flat, not fleshy.[5]

Alexanders is native to the Mediterranean but is able to thrive farther north.[2] The flowers are yellow-green in colour and arranged in umbels,[4]and its fruits are black. It flowers from April to June.[4]Alexanders is intermediate in flavor between celery and parsley.[2] It was once used in many dishes, either blanched,[6] or not, but it has now been replaced by celery.

It is now almost forgotten as a food source, although it still grows wild in many parts of Europe, including Britain.[2] It is common among the sites of medieval monastery gardens.

Look out for this tall plant on cliff paths, the first seaside greenery of the year. The Romans brought it with them to eat the leaves, the stems, the roots, and the buds.[7]

Alexanders is a feed source much appreciated by horses.[8]


Widely dispersed in England and Ireland. Common in waste ground and edges of fields especially near the shore.[9][10]


Ireland: Counties Down, Antrim and Londonderry and throughout most of Ireland.[9][11]


  1. "Smyrnium olusatrum". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Davidson, Alan, and Tom Jaine. The Oxford companion to food. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006. 805. Print. Retrieved Aug. 09, 2010, from
  3. Pliny (1856). "Book XX. Anise—sixty-one remedies". The Natural History of Pliny. 4. translators John Bostock, Henry Riley. London: Henry Bohn. pp. 271–274. OCLC 504358830.
  4. 1 2 3 Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012. Webb's An Irish Flora. p.425 Cork University Press ISBN 978-185918-4783
  5. Webb, D.A., Parnell, J. and Doogue, D. 1996. An Irish Flora. Dundalgan Press Ltd.Daldalk. ISBN 0-85221-131-7
  6. MM. Vilmorin-Andrieux; W.Robinson. 1885/undated. The vegetable garden: Illustrations, descriptions, and culture of the garden vegetables of cold and temperate climates, English Edition. Jeavons-Leler Press and Ten Speed Press. 1920 edition in Internet Archive
  7. Ginn, Peter and Goodman, Ruth 2013. Tudor Monastery Farm. Random House (BBC Digital). ISBN 9781448141722.
  8. Ed, Mr. (1975). Yummy!. p. 1.
  9. 1 2 Hackney, P.(Ed) 1992 Stewart and Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland. Institute of Irish Studies The Queen's University of Belfast. ISBN 0-85389-446-9
  10. Clapham, A.R., Turin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-04656-4
  11. Scannell, M.P. and Synnott, D.M. 1972. Census Catalogue of the Flora of Ireland. Dublin Stationery Office
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Alexanders.
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