Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) grow abundantly around much of Anglesey. They are one of the earliest plants to sprout up in the spring, providing a vibrant green to the roadside verges along the coast as early as late January or February. At that time of year, you are probably unlikely to mistake them for anything else. However, as the year moves on and the other umbellifers come out, take care not to confuse them with nastier (for your health) things like hog weed or hemlock water dropwort.
Alexanders coming into flower (usually the plant would be much taller than this at flowering, but this is in an area of the forest that was harvested this winter and the emerging plants were razed to the ground – so it’s panicking a bit and flowering even though it is so short.)
All parts of Alexanders can be eaten – the roots and stems can be boiled or steamed and eaten as a vegetable, and the leaves can be used as a herb. All parts have a celery-ish flavour to them. And indeed it is celery that displaced Alexanders from kitchens and kitchen gardens.
Alexanders with rust (a fungal infection that is very common)
Sporadically, academics take an interest in Alexanders – like most plants with such a long history of cultivation and use, it undoubtedly has many properties of benefit to humans, but the question is always whether it is economic to exploit those properties. So far, the answer seems to be no.
Alexanders in amongst hawthorn
The scientific name for Alexanders is Smyrnium olusatrum. Smyrnium coming from the Greek for myrrh, and olusatrum meaning black vegetable, because the roots are very dark. In Welsh, Alexanders are sometimes called Dulys. I’ve no idea of the etymology of that, but perhaps it too refers to the dark colour (du – black and maybe lys from llysiau – veg).