weed that looks like parsley


An upright and short-lived herbaceous plant usually growing 1-2 m tall with stems covered in distinctive purplish blotches. Its stems are also hollow, hairless and have fine lengthwise grooves. Its stems and leaves give off a strong odour when crushed or damaged. Its leaves are large, deeply-divided, and ferny in appearance and their stalks tend to sheath the stems at their bases. Its small white flowers (2-4 mm across) are produced in large dense flat-topped clusters at the tips of the branches. Its small greyish-brown fruit separate into two prominently ribbed ‘seeds’ (2-4 mm long) when mature.

A widespread species that is mainly naturalised in the south-eastern parts of Australia. It is most common in the coastal and sub-coastal regions of Victoria, in eastern New South Wales, in the ACT and in Tasmania. Also scattered in south-eastern Queensland, south-eastern South Australia and south-western Western Australia, and recorded in other parts of Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. Naturalised overseas in southern Africa, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Central America and South America.

A weed of temperate, and to a lesser extent sub-tropical, environments that is usually found in damp, shaded habitats. It inhabits waterways, floodplains, marshes, wetlands, gullies, forest margins, roadsides, waste areas, disturbed sites, crops and pastures.

hemlock An upright and short-lived herbaceous plant usually growing 1-2 m tall with stems covered in distinctive purplish blotches. Its stems are also hollow, hairless and have fine lengthwise

How to get rid of pesky hedge parsley

Hedge parsley (Photo: Contributed photo)

Q. Last year my garden beds were covered with a weed that sort of looked like parsley when it sprouted but it had tiny white flowers on a tall stalk and then seeds that became little barbed balls that stuck to my socks and my cat’s fur. What is this? How can I keep it from coming back?

A. From your description I think your weed is Torilis arvensis, hedge parsley or spreading parsley. This was an introduced weed to California and is usually found in disturbed sites, like garden beds, or woodlands throughout Northern, Central and coastal California.

It is listed as an invasive weed but is not considered to be too harmful to the native plant communities or toxic to livestock. However the burs can cause mechanical injury to livestock or pets if they lodge in ears, eyes or nose.

It is an annual weed that sprouts early in the spring and has clusters of small white flowers that develop seeds with burs. These nasty burs cling to pet’s fur, socks and other clothing.

In small areas, or for just a few weeds showing in your garden bed, pulling or cultivating with a hoe before the weed has a chance to set seed is the best control. Timing is important as those barbed balls catch on clothing and ensure that the seeds will be widely disbursed throughout your yard, so search diligently if you hope to eradicate it.

For larger areas, using a pre-emergent herbicide before the seed has had a chance to sprout may be the best option for getting it under control. Before spreading a pre-emergent, make sure the weed has not already sprouted as pre-emergent herbicides only work if applied before the weed seedlings emerge from the soil. Make sure to follow all label directions and to water in the pre-emergent soon after application.

You can also try mowing or weed whacking just as the hedge parsley is flowering as this has been found to control it fairly well. Do be prepared to do this more than once as it may re-sprout. Again, timing is very important because if the plant has already started to go to seed this will just help spread it more throughout your yard.

For more information about this weed, check out the following website.

For help with identifying other weeds you may find in your garden, the University of California IPM site has a weed identification key. The key can be found at this web address:

The IPM Weed Key has step-by-step instructions and an easy to use tutorial for identifying common broadleaf weeds, grassy weeds and sedge type or aquatic weeds. The tutorial has clickable pictures to help you with identifying leaf shapes and other plant features. It is limited in the number of weeds that it has in its database but most of the common landscape and garden weeds can be found by using this key.

The weed that looks like parsley and spreads by burr-like seeds can be eradicated.