Wild chervil is a short-lived perennial or biennial (meaning it takes at least two years to complete its life cycle) that has been spreading to several Forest Park trailheads.
A member of the Carrot family, originally from Europe and introduced through wildflower mixes, this plant has fern-like leaves similar to a carrot, grows to 3-4’ tall, and has umbrella-like clusters of small white flowers. There are many additional plants in the Carrot family as well that grow in our area. One common plant in our region that may be confused for wild chervil is wild carrot (formerly referred to as Queen Anne’s Lace). Wild carrot is shorter (2-3’ tall), has only one central flower cluster (sometimes with a tinge of purple in the center), and generally only has leaves at the base of the plant. The bloom time of wild carrot also sets it apart since it typically flowers in late summer.
Another common look-a-like to wild chervil is the deadly poison hemlock (link to page on our site); however, poison hemlock often grows much taller (8-10’ tall) and has splotchy purple spots on the stem. Wild chervil’s stems are solid green, ribbed like celery, and hairy on the lower portions of the plant. You may also notice a ring of hairs around segments of the stem. Upper stems are hairless with smaller leaves.
Plants are easiest to spot when blooming, typically in May. Following flowering, umbrella-like clusters of shiny seed pods form. When looked at closely, individual seeds are ¼” long, grouped in pairs, and have insect-like antennae structures on top. A deep taproot makes control efforts difficult, and plants need to be handled with care since they can cause skin sensitivity.
Wild chervil prefers moist, rich soil but tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. Once established, it can spread rapidly along stream corridors, choking out other plants and reducing wildlife habitat. Fortunately, seeds appear to be short-lived (around 2 years) in the soil. West Multnomah SWCD is actively managing wild chervil at two locations in partnership with property owners and residents.
If you find wild chervil please consider sending a report and photo to Oregon Invasives Hotline. This will help assess the overall current extent of the plant in our region. Wild chervil can be managed through handpulling when soil is moist, but be sure to dig out the whole taproot, as plants resprout from the root. Take care to avoid skin contact by wearing gloves, as handling it can cause skin irritation. Avoid working in areas where plants have already set seed. Everyone can help the effort by taking care to clean their footwear before and after hiking in natural areas.