Prairie Parsley

Photo of prairie parsley flower cluster.
Scientific Name
Polytaenia nuttallii
Apiaceae (carrots)

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.

Height: to 3 feet.
Where To Find
image of Prairie Parsley distribution map
Scattered, mostly south of the Missouri River, especially in our southwest counties; apparently absent from the Southeast Lowlands.
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.
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.
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.
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About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!