Prairie Parsley

Polytaenia nuttallii

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Photo of prairie parsley flower cluster.
Prairie parsley is an upright, stout-stemmed perennial with small yellow flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters. It blooms April through June.
Family

Apiaceae (carrots)

Description

An upright, stout-stemmed perennial with stalks slightly hairy or roughened. Flowers in terminal, flat-topped clusters (compound umbels); individual flowers yellow, small (about ⅛ inch wide), with 5 petals and protruding stamens. Blooms April–June. Leaves up to 7 inches long, twice- or thrice-pinnate, leaf stalks with wide, clasping bases. Fruit oval, flattened, to ⅜ inch long.

Size

Height: to 3 feet.

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Photo of prairie parsley basal leaf.
Prairie Parsley (Leaf)
The leaves of prairie parsley can help you distinguish it from other yellow-flowering members of the parsley family.

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Photo of prairie parsley stalk showing base of leaf stem.
Prairie Parsley (Stalk)
The leaf stalks of prairie parsley have wide, clasping bases.
Habitat and conservation

Grows in upland prairies, glades, savannas, and openings of dry upland forests, often on calcareous substrates; also along roadsides and railroads. There are only two species of Polytaenia in the world, and they're both native to the United States. This is the only one found in Missouri.

image of Prairie Parsley distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Scattered, mostly south of the Missouri River, especially in our southwest counties; apparently absent from the Southeast Lowlands.

Human connections

The scientific name honors Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859), a botanist and zoologist who explored the American West, collecting many biological specimens new to science. He wrote comprehensive books on plants and birds and worked at premier scientific institutions. Many species are named for him.

Ecosystem connections

Except for the earliest part of the growing season, prairie wildflowers must compete with rapidly growing, ever-rising tallgrasses. The shortest flowers bloom before the grasses begin to grow. Prairie parsley blooms and seeds in spring and early summer, just above the rising tide of grasses.