top of page

Wild celery - Apium graveolens

Foraging and identification of Celery (Apium graveolens)

Edible plant - advanced Season - spring to autumn Common names wild celery, celery, smallage

Scientific name meaning: The Latin word Apium, meaning water, originates from the Celtic Apon. Graveolens is also Latin in origin and means strongly scented.


Wild celery growing near its preferred habitat of brackish water

Wild celery likes to grow near the sea or brackish water, it can be found in marshes, ditches and along riversides in tidal areas.

Overall structure and smell

Wild celery's general structure

Fairly low growing reaching up to 60cm. It can appear quite string and scrabbly. A strong smell of celery is often detected when the plant is nearby.


A leaf of wild celery (Apium graveolens)

The leaves are dark green and glossy, with once pinnate with lobed and toothed leaflets. The flower stem leaves are trifoliate with narrower leaflets. The leaf stem has a deep u-shaped grove and sheaths the main stem. When crushed, they smell strongly of celery.


The stem of Wild celery (Apium graveolens)

The stem is hollow and grooved.


The flower of Wild celery (Apium graveolens)

The small, white flowers appear in summer and like all members of this family are arranged in umbels. There are no bracts or bracteoles.


The seeds of Wild celery (Apium graveolens)

The small grey-black seeds are oval-shaped and ridged. They appear from late summer.

Possible lookalikes

Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) on a riverbank

May be confused with Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe crocota), which is deadly poisonous. Hemlock Water Dropwort is a larger plant, reaching up to 1.5m. Its leaves are 3 to 4 times pinnate, whereas Wild Celery's are once pinnate, non-glossy and a paler green. The aroma of crushed leaves is more parsley-like than a strong celery smell.

Use as a food This is the wild ancestor of domestic celery and is available as a cultivated herb. All parts can be eaten. The leaves can be used chopped in salads, or to flavour hot dishes. The seeds impart a strong celery flavour and can be sprinkled on dishes or used within the preparation of them. Hazards The leaves are considered toxic if consumed in excessive amounts. Some people can develop contact dermatitis if the plants is infected with the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Allergies are also reported in some people, including anaphylaxis. Consumption while pregnant is not advised due to it being an abortifacient and uterine stimulant.

Use in herbal medicine and medicine Celery has been used to treat anxiety, digestive disorders and rheumatism. It has also been used as a diuretic, stimulant, appetizer and tonic. If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner Other uses Purple dyes can be made from the fruit. Importance to other species Provides a valuable nectar source for pollinators, and abundant food source for birds.

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!


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page