Spreading Chervil

Chaerophyllum procumbens (L.) Crantz

Chaerophyllum procumbens
Robert H. Mohlenbrock

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Apiaceae (Carrot Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

When the young plants are just developing, the leaves of the common invasive species wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris) look a lot like spreading chervil, so don't be fooled. Spreading chervil has bractlets at the base of the small umbels but wild chervil does not. Wild chervil is also much larger and more erect when mature (procumbens means laying along the ground).

State Ranking Justification

There is one verified occurrence, and 8 historical occurrences.

Short-term Trends

The short term trend is unknown. The only verified extant site has only ever been visited once, in the late 1990's and its population was small at that time. Population counts are lacking for all but this extant site.

Long-term Trends

The long term trend appears to be a decline. Only one verified site is known, an additonal occurrence was revisited twice but the population was not relocated and another site was lost to development. The additional seven historical sites have not been resurveyed.

Conservation and Management


No specific threats have been identified. Given its habitat preference, competition from the establishment and spread of invasive exotic plants (especially species tolerant of floodplain conditions) is a high potential threat. Disruption of the soil surface and hydrology of its habitat may also be a threat.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

The forest understory where this species occurs should be left undisturbed. Monitor and control the spread of invasive exotic plant species within the stands where this species occurs.

Research Needs

No research needs have been identified.


Associated Ecological Communities

  • Floodplain forest (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on mineral soils on low terraces of river floodplains and river deltas. These sites are characterized by their flood regime; low areas are annually flooded in spring, and high areas are flooded irregularly.
  • Railroad
    A permanent road having a line of steel rails fixed to wood ties and laid on a gravel roadbed that provides a track for cars or equipment drawn by locomotives or propelled by self-contained motors. There may be sparse vegetation rooted in the gravel substrate. The railroad right of way may be maintained by mowing or herbicide spraying.

Associated Species

  • Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
  • Arisaema triphyllum
  • Cardamine
  • Carpinus caroliniana ssp. virginiana (musclewood, ironwood, American hornbeam)
  • Claytonia virginica (eastern spring-beauty)
  • Fraxinus americana (white ash)
  • Mertensia virginica (eastern bluebells)
  • Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam, ironwood)
  • Quercus rubra (northern red oak)
  • Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut)
  • Tilia americana
  • Trillium erectum (purple trillium, stinking Benjamin)
  • Zizia aurea (common golden Alexanders)


New York State Distribution

New York lies at the northern edge of spreading chervil's range and records of its collection are limited to scattered locations in central and western New York.

Global Distribution

Spreading chervil occurs in North America, from the plains states of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma east and north to Iowa, Wisconsin, Ontario and New York and south to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Chaerophyllum procumbens is a moderately sized, ascending to erect multi-stemmed plant that grows up to 30 cm in height. It has alternate, finely pinnately divided, sessile to short petioled leaves up to approximately 6 cm long by 5 cm wide. The leaf midrib (rachis) and stalks (petiolules) are grooved on their upper surface and very sparsely pubscent. The leaflets are entire, rounded to subacute at their tip, and deeply lobed or cleft nearly to the midrib but not separated into distinct leaflets. The leaf margins have sparse stiff, slender bristles. The inflorescence is comprised of flower clusters borne on stalks of nearly equal length extending upward from the leaf axil (axillary umbel) and form a flat or curved surface. There are generally 3 (2) rays per inflorescence and the individual flower clusters (umbellets) are subtended by 4 to 5 small (<=2 mm) egg-shaped to rounded bracts which are spreading or erect in fruit. The flower stalks 2 to 3 mm long, lengthen to 5 to 6mm in fruit, are smooth and hairless (glabrous) and the same diameter along their entire length. The flowers have 5 white, glabrous petals up to 1 mm long by 0.6 mm wide, spreading and elliptic with a single visible midvein and a pointed tip. The stamens are also 5 per flower, spreading, and alternate with the petals. Sepals are minute or absent. The fruits are up to 7 mm long, green, glabrous, elliptic-oblong and one seeded per carpel. (Missouri Plants 2007) 

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Spreading chervil is best identified in flower or fruit. The upper stem with leaves and flowers or mature fruits is needed.

Similar Species

Osmorhiza species may appear similar to Chaerophyllum procumbens but are generally much hairier plants and their fruits have a club-shaped base and fine bristly grooves on their angles (strigose-setose), while Chaerophyllum procumbens' fruit lack an expanded base and are smooth. Conium maculatum, Thaspium and Conioselinum species all have umbels with five or more rays in contrast to C. procumbens' three rays. In addition, Conium maculatum is a much more robust plant reaching 3 to 7 feet tall at maturity with noticably spotted stems. Thaspium spp have greenish, yellow or purple flowers and strongly winged fruits. Conioselinium chinese has broadly winged fruit, and leaves with dilated petiole sheaths. In contrast to the above species, Chaerophyllum procumbens has few white flowers in small loose umbels, smooth (glabrous) ridged but unwinged fruit, and a smaller overall size.

Best Time to See

Chaerophyllum procumbens typically flowers in May with mature fruits present in June.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Spreading Chervil flowering and fruiting in New York.

Spreading Chervil Images


Spreading Chervil
Chaerophyllum procumbens (L.) Crantz

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Apiales
          • Family Apiaceae (Carrot Family)

Additional Resources


Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: January 8, 2016

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Chaerophyllum procumbens. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/spreading-chervil/. Accessed May 26, 2024.