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Fool's Watercress - Apium nodiflorum

Fool's Watercress - Apium nodiflorum - is also edible despite its common name

Main features

  • Grows in shallow water or very damp areas

  • Looks similar to watercress

  • Pinnate leaves with two to four pairs of leaflets and a terminal leaf

  • Strong smell of carrot when crushed

  • Easily confused with poisonous lookalikes

  • An advanced plant

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Fool's Watercress - Apium nodiflorum

Edible plant - advanced

Other common names: Lebanese Cress, Poor Man's Watercress


Scientific name meaning: Apium is derived from the latin Apis, for “bee” in reference to the bee's supposed preference of the plant. Nodiflorum means “flowering at the nodes”, due to Fool's Watercress producing its flowerheads at these points

Season Can be found all year, and flowers during the summer months

Habitat - where will I find it? Fool's Watercress likes the shallow water of streams, dykes, brooks, ditches, ponds, and wet banks. It is a native of western Europe

Description - what does it look like? Bears some resemblance to watercress, which is actually in a different family entirely. Forms a mat of leaf stalks that are often submerged, and leaves with two to four pairs of leaflets. Its white umbels of flowers emerge from the base of the leaves. When crushed, the leaves smell like carrot.

Possible lookalikes Water Parsnip (Berula erecta), which is reported to be toxic and deadly to cattle, can be easily confused with Fool's Watercress. There are subtle differences between the two, such as more deeply serrated leaves, bracts on flower umbels, and a ring appearing on the leaf stalk of Water Parsnip. However, the smell of both plants is very similar and therefore this is a plant for advanced foragers.

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) could also be confused for Fool's Watercress, but this smells of cress rather than carrots

Use as a food Can be used cooked in soups and stews as an aromatic green. It can also be used to enhance the flavour of spinach or other wilted greens

Use in herbal medicine None known

Hazards Fool's Watercress is member of the notoriously difficult to identify Apiacaea (carrot) family. This is a plant for advanced foragers only. As this plant grows in waterways, it must be cooked to remove the risk from waterborne parasites, such as liver fluke

Importance to other species Provides a food source for pollinators

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

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