Spreading hedge-parsley (Torilis arvensis)

GenusTorilis (1)
SizeHeight: up to 100 cm (2)

Classified as Nationally Scarce in Great Britain (3).

Spreading hedge-parsley is usually an upright-growing plant, which has two or three-lobed leaves with toothed edges (2). The flowers are either white or pink and are arranged in clusters called umbels (2).

This plant is found throughout much of western, central and southern Europe and reaches into south-western Asia. In the north-west of Europe, however, the species is in decline and is threatened in many areas (3). The decline of this species in Britain has been one of the most dramatic of any arable weed (4).

This species usually appears with autumn-sown cereals, but occasionally may be found with other arable crops (4). It can also occur on disturbed or waste ground, and seems to prefer calcareous clay, but can grow on a broad range of soil types (4).

Spreading hedge-parsley is an annual plant, but may occasionally occur as a biennial, and flowers from July to September (2). Dispersal is carried out by animals, the seeds germinate in autumn or spring, and are able to stay dormant in the soil for a number of years (3).

Many agricultural 'weeds' have suffered a precipitous decline in the UK. The main cause of these declines has been agricultural changes associated with intensification, such as the increased use of chemical herbicides and fertilisers, the loss of field-margin refuges, and changes in traditional crop rotation techniques (3).

Spreading hedge-parsley is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, for which Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity, is the lead partner (4). The Species Action Plan aims to maintain all current populations and help the species to become re-established in at least eight former sites by 2003. At present, spreading hedge-parsley is known to occur in at least one Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) (3).

For more information on this species see:

Plantlife Species Dossier:

The UK BAP Species Action Plan for this plant:

Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (January, 2003)
  2. Press, B. and Gibbons, B. (1993) Photographic field guide: Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe. New Holland (Publishers) Ltd., London.
  3. UK BAP Species Action Plan (November, 2001)
  4. Byfield, A. (2003) Pers. comm.