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Spreading Chervil (Chaerophyllum procumbens)

Life history

Species overview

Spreading Chervil (Chaerophyllum procumbens), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in rich alluvial deciduous forests. Blooming occurs late April through late May; fruiting occurs throughout May. The optimal identification period for this species is late April through early May.

Synonyms: None


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from the similar-looking sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii) by its annual, weak-stemmed habit, glabrous fruit and ovaries, and more finely divided leaves. Distinguished from from wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris) by size. Wild chervil is usually found 1 to 2 m tall.
  • Flower characteristics: Compound umbels of tiny, white, 5-parted flowers; umbellets subtended by conspicuous bracts wider than the rays.
  • Fruit characteristics: Narrowly elliptic or oblong, 5 to 10 mm long fruits are broadest near the middle with thread-like ribs; glabrous.
  • Leaf characteristics: Fern-like leaves are usually hairless and have oblong to egg-shaped leaf segments.


  • Blooming phenology: late April through late May
  • Fruiting phenology: throughout May
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late April through early May


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Annual
  • Comments: Associated Species: Acer saccharinum, A. negundo, Celtis occidentalis, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Ranunculus abortivus, Phlox divaricata, Galium aparine, Clematis virginiana, Rudbeckia laciniata.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Spreading Chervil (Chaerophyllum procumbens). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Chaerophyllum procumbens in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in rich alluvial deciduous forests.
  • Soils: Moist, alluvial soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Spreading Chervil. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Floodplain Forest 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Spreading Chervil. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Although maintaining high overall forest canopy is important, silvicultural techniques which open small gaps in the canopy may be beneficial to this species.


Spreading Chervil Photo.

Photo © Kitty Kohout.

Spreading Chervil Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition