Gardening for you: pretty regular parsley, pollinator-friendly

Parsley is a must-have edible for any garden that appears in early spring and lasts well into fall. Parsley is a staple in vegetable gardens and it also serves as a host plant for swallowtail butterflies in ornamental pollinator gardens.

Persil is a member of the Apiaceae (Previously Umbelliferae) family. Other common members of the family are carrot, celery, cilantro, and dill. The original designation of Umbelliferae recognized the umbel inflorescences but reclassified them Apiaceae connects the essential oil apiol with all family members. Apiol is the highly aromatic “essence” present in Apiaceae foliage.

Parsley is a culinary herb native to Europe and the Mediterranean region grown for its aromatic edible leaves, which are used fresh or dried.

There are three types of parsley: curly parsley, flat parsley and Hamburg parsley. Curly or French leaves have cupped leaves widely used as a garnish; flat-leaf or Italian parsley has a strong flavor and is most commonly found in grocery stores; the uncommon Hamburg parsley has a swollen root similar to a parsnip.


Parsley is a biennial. The first season produces vegetative growth of bright green, fern-like leaves that grow from a whorled or rosette central stem forming a rounded clump. The compound leaves are divided and subdivided into curled or flat-lobed leaflets which are borne alternately on a petiole, the stem which attaches the leaf to the stem proper.

The leaves provide fresh foliage for months when harvested young, until frost damages the leaves. Parsley plants are lovely as borders, borders or container plants.

Second season growth is reproductive. Plants exposed to sustained temperatures below 40°F produce 2 to 3 foot seed stalks that bear numerous small greenish-yellow florets that form several terminal umbels. The leaves are edible after flowering but lose some flavor.

The entire life cycle of black swallowtail and anise butterflies is supported by parsley. The swallowtail larva can devour an entire plant in no time. It is for this reason that parsley plants in a pollinator garden are allowed to reseed themselves, providing plenty of foliage for hungry grubs. The showy adult butterfly feeds on the nectar of flowers, lays its eggs on foliage, and upon hatching, the larvae feed on green leaves. Group the plants together for the best show and to attract adults to the garden.

The aromatic dark green leaves of parsley are also essential in the vegetable garden. The leaves are rich in flavonoid and carotenoid antioxidants; Vitamins A, B-complex, C and K; and minerals potassium, iron, copper and manganese. The darker the green of the leaves, the higher the chlorophyll levels, providing increased levels of nitrogen and magnesium to the body.

Often discarded as a fresh garnish left on restaurant plates, parsley is beneficial for reducing bad breath due to its high chlorophyll content.

Note: some information from

Ellen Peffley taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, 25 of them at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two varieties of onions. She is now the sole owner of From the Garden, a vegetable farm. You can email him at [email protected]

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