home browse overview


This is a very large family mostly from temperate and cold regions of both Hemispheres. Some members for the family Apiaceae may be found almost anywhere in Australia. Most, however, are temperate, where they are found in grassy communities, woodlands, the alps or (many introduced species) in disturbed places and roadsides.

Characteristic features of the family Apiaceae in Australia include:

  • mostly herbs (a few native species are shrubby) with leaves usually more or less divided, sometimes finely so, often with a sheathing base to the petiole
  • flowers usually borne in simple or compound umbels (though these sometimes so contracted as to appear like heads in some Australian genera), small, 5-partite, with a prominent disc
  • ovary 2-locular, inferior, developing into a more or less dry, often ribbed fruit which usually splits into two mericarps at maturity


Evergreen shrubs, or annual, biennial or perennial terrestrial herbs (rarely aquatic herbs rooted in the substrate with their leaves emergent), perennating by rhizomes or taproots. Vegetative reproduction absent or by tubers, rhizomes or stolons. Adult leaves sometimes replaced by phyllodes or leaves ±absent. Stems rarely succulent, unarmed or rarely apparently with thorns or spines arising from the leaf axils; internodes solid, spongy, pithy or hollow, terete, strongly flattened or distinctly angular. Internal secretions not obvious or rarely of essential oils. Plants glabrous or with simple, dendritic, stellate, clavate, capitate or vesicular glandular or non-glandular, uniseriate or multiseriate hairs. Leaves well developed or rarely much reduced (i.e. to scales, etc.), alternate and spiral or in whorls of 7 or more; if herbs then the leaves cauline, all or mostly basal, or both basal and cauline, petiolate, subsessile or sessile, or rarely peltate. Stipules absent, or present and distinct and free from petiole; scale-like or membranous or lacerate or fimbriate; persistent; stipellae absent. Lamina simple, once compound, bicompound or tricompound, ternate or imparipinnate, symmetric or conspicuously asymmetric, pinnatifid or pinnatisect or palmatifid or palmatisect, filiform, acicular, subulate, linear, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic, oblanceolate, obovate, oblong, reniform or orbicular; base cuneate, cordate, oblique or rarely attenuate; margins entire, crenate, dentate or serrate or spiny, ±flat, revolute or recurved; venation solitary, or pinnate, or palmate, or rarely parallel, with the midrib rarely inconspicuous, and the tertiary venation rarely reticulate; surfaces not punctate; herbaceous, rarely succulent or hard and spinose; distinctive odour absent or aromatic. Male and female flowers occurring on the same plant or on separate plants, or bisexual flowers and male flowers occurring together on the same plant, or with all the flowers bisexual. Inflorescences terminal, axillary or leaf opposed, consisting of capitula, glomerules, umbels or solitary flowers. Bracts and bracteoles present. Pollination by insects. Flowers odourless, fragrant or malodorous; sessile or stalked. Floral disc present; nectaries present on the disc. Perianth of 2 dissimilar whorls, or of 1 whorl only, or all whorls ±similar. Calyx regular; segments free or fused, with (0 or) 5 sepals or lobes, imbricate or open in bud; calyx cup-shaped, herbaceous or papery. Corolla regular or rarely irregular; segments free, with (0 or) 5 petals, alternating with the sepals/calyx lobes, imbricate in bud; rarely 1-lipped, white, cream, yellow, red, pink, blue or green, without contrasting markings, membranous; claws present or absent; lobes ±entire or notched, emarginate, bifid or bilobed. Fertile stamens (2–3) 5, opposite to the sepals or calyx lobes, free of the corolla, free of ovary and style, distinct from each other, all ±equal. Staminodes present or absent. Anthers dorsifixed, versatile, opening inwards by longitudinal slits; 4-celled. Ovary inferior. Carpels 2, fused; ovary with 1–2 locules. Style terminal, branching from the base. Ovules 1 per locule, stalked; placentation apical. Fruit dry, dehiscent or rarely indehiscent, usually a schizocarp (polachenarium) disseminating by 2 mericarps; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous or dry and persistent. Disseminule macro-surface featureless, or with straight hairs, wings or spines; micro-surface ±smooth, spinulose, tuberculate, reticulate, rugose or verrucose, magenta, purple, violet, pale or dark brown or black, dull. Seeds 1–2 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight or curved.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Apiaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 27.

Australian genera of Apiaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)

† = some species native, others introduced
* = all species introduced


Aciphylla glacialis (flowering plant)
Photo: C.Totterdell © ANBG 

Actinotus leucocephalus (flowers)
Photo: F.Humphreys © ANBG 

Actinotus schwarzii (flowers)
Photo: B.Thomson © Parks & Wildlife Commission of NT 

Dichosciadium ranunculaceum (flowering plant)
Photo: D.Jones © D.Jones