Carrot Family

Kellogg’s Yampah © KKorbholz

Parsley Family
Apiaceae (ay-pee-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Stems usually ribbed and hollow
  • Leaves usually deeply dissected and aromatic
  • Leaf stalk generally sheathed at base
  • Flowers in single or compound umbels
  • Flowers usually tiny and yellow or white

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Annuals, biennials, or perennial herbs (also shrubs or small trees)
  • Generally aromatic
  • Stems hollow and usually ribbed
  • Leaves
    • Usually simple (not divided into leaflets), but heavily dissected
    • Generally alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
    • Generally sheathed at base
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is an umbel (a spoke-like flower cluster with stalks radiating from a single point) in 2 types
      • A simple umbel, single-tiered, like an umbrella
      • A compound umbel, double-tiered, like an umbrella of umbrellas
        • Secondary (smaller umbel) with bracts (modified leaves) at base
    • Usually small, yellow or white flowers
    • Usually bisexual and radially symmetric
    • 5 petals, generally incurved at tips
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a schizocarp (a dry fruit that splits into 2 single-seeded segments)
    • Often with wings, prickles, or hooks on margins
    • Mature fruit generally critical for identification
Carrot Family Characteristics © JMason


  • Approximately 3,000 species worldwide
    • Includes many cultivated species, e.g. carrots, parsley, and celery
      • The “seeds” of spices such as coriander, caraway, cumin, and anise are actually dry fruits
  • Geophytes (e.g. plants growing from bulbs, corms, rhizomes, or enlarged taproots) are well adapted to survive fire, our Mediterranean climate’s long, dry summers, and extended droughts
    • Perennial species in the Carrot family have a persistent taproot, which thickens and lengthens as the plant grows (Csanyi 2018)
    • Taproot becomes a storage organ for starches, sugars, and other nutrients
    • Allows access to deep water reserves
    • Above-ground growth dies back after flowering, while underground the plant survives
  • Native people harvested the seeds, greens, and roots of many edible Carrot species (Anderson 2005)
    • Plants were actively managed
      • Hardwood sticks were used for digging
      • Some plants were spared to allow future crops
      • Root fragments were left in the ground to regenerate
      • Areas were burned to decrease competition and recycle nutrients
  • CAUTION – some species, e.g. poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), are highly toxic
  • Scientific name from the included genus Apium, from the Latin for “celery” or “parsley”
    • Also known as Umbelliferae, referring to the umbels characteristic of the inflorescence
  • Represented by 25 species at Edgewood

See General References

Specific References

Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley.

Csanyi, C. 2018, Dec. 28. The advantages of the fibrous root and taproot systems. SFGate.

Mason, J. 2004. Apiaceae — Carrot family characteristics [Illustration, adapted]. T. Corelli. Flowering Plants of Edgewood Natural Preserve (2nd. ed.). Monocot Press, Half Moon Bay, California. (c) CC BY NC 3.0.

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family