Water dropwort

The water dropworts, Oenanthe /ɔɪˈnænθiː/, are a genus of plants in the family Apiaceae. Most of the species grow in damp ground, in marshes or in water.

Several of the species are extremely poisonous, the active poison being oenanthotoxin. The most notable of these is O. crocata, which lives in damp, marshy ground, and resembles celery with roots like a bunch of large white carrots. The leaves may be eaten safely by livestock, but the stems, and especially the carbohydrate-rich roots are much more poisonous. Animals familiar with eating the leaves may eat the roots when these are exposed during ditch clearance – one root is sufficient to kill a cow, and human fatalities are also known. It has been referred to as the most poisonous of all British plants,[1] and is considered particularly dangerous because of its similarity to several edible plants.[2]

The species O. javanica, commonly known as Chinese celery or Japanese parsley (seri; not to be confused with mitsuba or Japanese wild celery, a plant from a different genus) is edible and grown in several countries of eastern Asia, as well as in Italy and India, where the spring growth is relished as a vegetable.

Water dropwort
Oenanthe aquatica - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-228
Oenanthe aquatica
Scientific classification

L., 1753

O. aquatica – Fine-leafed water dropwort
O. crocata – Hemlock water dropwort
O. fistulosa – Tubular water dropwort syn. Phellandrium dodonaei
O. fluviatilis – River water dropwort
O. javanica – Java water dropwort
O. javanica ssp. javanica – Java water dropwort
O. javanica ssp. stolonifera – Stolon water dropwort
O. lachenalii – Parsley water dropwort
O. laciniata – Cutleaf water dropwort
O. peucidanifolia
O. pimpinelloides – Corky-fruited water dropwort
O. sarmentosa – Water parsley
O. silaifolia – Narrow-leafed water dropwort

Oenanthe April 2011-1
Oenanthe crocata


"Oenanthe" is derived from the Greek oinos "wine" and anthos "flower", from the wine-like scent of the flowers.[3]

The name "water dropwort" comes from the close resemblance of some of the smaller species (which mainly grow in wet ground) to dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) (Rosaceae), an unrelated plant of dry grassland.

Sardonic grin

Scientists at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Italy wrote that they had identified hemlock water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) as the plant responsible for producing the sardonic grin.[4][5] This plant is the most-likely candidate for the "sardonic herb", which was a neurotoxic plant used for the ritual killing of elderly people in Nuragic Sardinia. When these people were unable to support themselves, they were intoxicated with this herb and then dropped from a high rock or beaten to death. Criminals were also executed in this way.[6]

Fossil record

Oenanthe aquatica fossil fruit halves have been recorded from Upper Miocene of Bulgaria, Pliocene of Thuringia and the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Poland.[7]


Oenanthe pimpinelloides2

Corky-fruited water dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides)

Oenanthe crocata

Hemlock water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) in spring


  1. ^ "Information Sheet: 31 Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe crocata)" (pdf). Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. 2005. Retrieved September 28, 2011. Oenanthe crocata [...] is the most toxic plant in Britain to both humans and animals.
  2. ^ Wright, John (2010), Hedgerow, Bloomsbury, p. 171, ISBN 978-1-4088-0185-7
  3. ^ "Dropwort, Hemlock Water". A Modern herbal. Botanical.com. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
  4. ^ News Scan Briefs: Killer Smile, Scientific American, August 2009
  5. ^ G. Appendino; F. Pollastro; L. Verotta; M. Ballero; A. Romano; P. Wyrembek; K. Szczuraszek; J. W. Mozrzymas & O. Taglialatela-Scafati (2009). "Polyacetylenes from Sardinian Oenanthe fistulosa: A Molecular Clue to risus sardonicus". Journal of Natural Products. 72 (5): 962–965. doi:10.1021/np8007717. PMC 2685611. PMID 19245244.
  6. ^ Owen, James (2009-06-02). "Ancient Death-Smile Potion Decoded?". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  7. ^ The Pliocene flora of Kholmech, south-eastern Belarus and it's correlation with other Pliocene floras of Europe by Felix Yu. VELICHKEVICH and Ewa ZASTAWNIAK - Acta Palaeobotanica 43(2): 137–259, 2003

External links

Media related to Water dropwort at Wikimedia Commons

Badley Moor

Badley Moor is an 18.3-hectare (45-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest east of Dereham in Norfolk. It is part of the Norfolk Valley Fens Special Area of Conservation.This area of spring fed fen and grassland in the valley of the River Tud has tufa hummocks formed by the deposit of calcium carbonate. It has an exceptionally rich fen community with a carpet of moss on wet slopes with many unusual plants. There are overgrown dykes with flora including narrow-leaved water-parsnip and water dropwort.There is access by a short track from Dumpling Green.

Berry Fen

Berry Fen is a 15.3 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest on the Western outskirts of Earith in Cambridgeshire.This neutral grassland periodically floods in the winter. It is used by wintering wildfowl, including Bewick's swans in nationally numbers, especially when the nearby Ouse Washes flood too deeply. There are wetland herbs such as marsh ragwort and the rare narrow-leaved water-dropwort.The site is private land with no public access.

Castor Flood Meadows

Castor Flood Meadows is a 41.8 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest on the western outskirts of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.This site on the banks of the River Nene is a remnant of formerly extensive flood meadows. Flora include slender tufted-sedges, early marsh-orchids and the nationally restricted narrow-leaved water-dropwort.The Hereward Way long distance footpath goes through the site.


Cicutoxin is a naturally-occurring poisonous chemical compound produced by several plants from the Apiaceae family including water hemlock (Cicuta species) and water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata). The compound contains polyene, polyyne, and alcohol functional groups and is a structural isomer of oenanthotoxin, also found in water dropwort. Both of these belong to the C17-polyacetylenes chemical class.It causes death by respiratory paralysis resulting from disruption of the central nervous system. It is a potent, noncompetitive antagonist of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor. In humans, cicutoxin rapidly produces symptoms of nausea, emesis and abdominal pain, typically within 60 minutes of ingestion. This can lead to tremors, seizures, and death. LD50(mouse; i.p.) ~9 mg/kg

Cranham Marsh

Cranham Marsh is a 15.3 hectare Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation in Cranham in the London Borough of Havering. It is owned by Havering Council and managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.The habitats on the site are woodland, wet meadow and marsh, and it has one of the few areas of fen to survive in the area. There are three small woods, including Spring Wood, which has species indicative of ancient woodland. Locally uncommon plants in wetland areas include southern marsh-orchid, fine-leaved water-dropwort and golden dock. Insects include a rare bee, Macropis europaea, and 23 species of butterfly have been recorded. It is also a good site for water voles. A tributary of the River Ingrebourne runs through the site.There is access by footpaths from Park Drive and The Chase.

Hardington Moor

Hardington Moor (grid reference ST515130) is an 8.7 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest between Hardington Mandeville and West Coker in Somerset, notified in 1994.

Hardington Moor National Nature Reserve covers partly calcareous clay-rich soils on sloping ground and comprises three meadows surrounded by established hedges. The meadows are examples of species-rich unimproved neutral grassland, which is now nationally rare. The rare French oat-grass is very abundant on the site and the fields are home to a wide variety of plant species, most notably adder's tongue, corky-fruited water-dropwort and large numbers of green-winged orchid. Invertebrates found at the site include butterflies such as gatekeeper, small tortoiseshell and common blue. Less commonly seen are large skipper, green-veined white and green hairstreak.

Jubilee Country Park

Jubilee Country Park is a 62-acre (25 ha) public park in Petts Wood in the London Borough of Bromley. It is a Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. It was purchased by Bromley Council to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, and opened as a park in 1981.The park is part of an extensive wildlife corridor together with Petts Wood and Scadbury Park. The London Loop goes through it.

The park consists of extensive areas of grassland and ancient woodland. The grassland has a large population of the rare corkyfruit water dropwort, while midland hawthorns are abundant in the woodland.

There is access from Southborough Lane, Blackbrook Lane and Tent Peg Lane.

Lingfield Cernes

Lingfield Cernes is a 10.3-hectare (25-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest east of Lingfield in Surrey.This site has unimproved meadows which are poorly drained and there are a number of uncommon plants, including two which are nationally scarce, true fox-sedge and narrow-leaved water dropwort. The site also has species-rich mature hedgerows and aquatic plants in ditches which run into the Eden Brook, which runs along the northern boundary.The site is private land but it is crossed by public footpaths.

Moor Park SSSI

Moor Park is a 6.7-hectare (17-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest east of Farnham in Surrey.This site in the valley of the River Wey is mainly alder carr, which is a nationally rare habitat. It is dominated by alder, with some crack willow. An area of swamp is mainly covered by common reed, with other plants including water-plantain, marsh violet, opposite leaved golden-saxifrage and hemlock water dropwort.The site is part of the grounds of Moor Park, Farnham, a listed building. The Greensand Way footpath runs through the site.

Moorlinch SSSI

Moorlinch (grid reference ST390360) is a 226.0 hectare (558.4 acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest at Moorlinch in Somerset, notified in 1985.

Moorlinch is part of the extensive grazing marsh grasslands and ditch systems of the Somerset Levels and Moors. Lying in the Parrett Basin at the foot of the Polden Hills, the area drains by gravity into the King’s Sedgemoor Drain.

The water table is high for most of the year with frequent winter flooding from high ground and surface water remaining on many fields throughout the winter and early spring. Moorlinch contains a good proportion of botanically rich ditch systems. Regularly

maintained field ditches are often species-rich and diverse. Notable species include Lesser Water-plantain (Baldellia ranunculoides), Tubular Water-dropwort (Oenanthe fistulosa) and Hairlike Pondweed (Potamogeton trichoides). The channels and banksides support a rich fauna; rare species include the water beetle (Hydrophilus piceus) and the soldier fly (Odontomyia ornata). Large populations of dragonflies and damselflies occur, including the Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) and the Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum).


Nabak-kimchi (나박김치) is a watery kimchi, similar to dongchimi, in Korean cuisine. It is made of thinly sliced Korean radish and napa cabbage (called baechu, hangul 배추, in Korean) into a rectangular shape as main ingredients and salted them with mixed vegetables and spices such as cucumber, scallion, water dropwort (called "minari", 미나리 in Korean), garlic, ginger, red chilies, chili pepper powder, sugar, salt, and water.Nabak gimchi looks similar to dongchimi in form but is commonly consumed during spring and summer, whereas dongchimi is most commonly eaten in winter. Besides, chili pepper powders is added to make nabak kimchi and makes the kimchi color a rose pink unlike the white colored dongchimi.

The term nabak originated from nabaknabak (hangul 나박나박) which is an adverb in Korean language and means "making flattened or slicing thinly".

North Curry Meadow

North Curry Meadow (grid reference ST330253) is a 1.3 hectare (3.1 acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in North Curry, Somerset, England, notified in 1989.

North Curry Meadow is a traditionally-managed hay meadow which contains a rich variety of grasses and dicotyledonous herbs characteristic of ancient, semi-natural lowland grassland. The site contains a population of the nationally scarce Corky-fruited Water-dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides), indicative of a particular type of

mesotrophic grassland community which occurs locally in South West England. There is a large population of Green-winged Orchids (Orchis morio) which is favoured by the late hay cut.

Oenanthe aquatica

Oenanthe aquatica, known in English as fineleaf water dropwort, fine-leaved water dropwort, fine leaved water dropwort, fineleaf water-dropwort, fine-leaved water-dropwort or fine leaved water-dropwort is an aquatic flowering plant in the Apiaceae.

Oenanthe javanica

Oenanthe javanica, commonly Java waterdropwort, Chinese celery, Indian pennywort, Japanese parsley, water celery and water dropwort, is a plant of the water dropwort genus originating from East Asia. (Chinese celery is also the name given to Apium graveolens var. secalinum). It has a widespread native distribution in temperate Asia and tropical Asia, and is also native to Queensland, Australia.This plant should not be confused with the plants of the genus Cryptotaenia, sometimes called "Japanese wild parsley" (mitsuba in Japanese).

Oenanthe pimpinelloides

Oenanthe pimpinelloides is a species of flowering plant in the carrot family known by the common name corky-fruited water-dropwort.It is native to Europe, the Middle East, and parts of western Asia and North Africa, and it is known on other continents as an introduced species and sometimes a noxious weed. This is a perennial herb growing to a maximum height near one meter. The leaves have blades up to 12 centimeters long borne on petioles up to 10 centimeters in length. The leaf blade is divided into leaflets which are subdivided into smaller segments which may be lobed or deeply cut. The inflorescence is a compound umbel of many flowers with bright white to red-tinged petals.

Frequently the plant grows on acidic soils. It is able to tolerate both dry and damp environments. It is also named water parsley


Oenanthotoxin is a toxin extracted from hemlock water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) and other plants of the genus Oenanthe. It is a central nervous system poison, and acts as a noncompetitive gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) antagonist. A case has been made for the presence of this toxin in local Oenanthe species playing a causative role in euthanasia in ancient Sardinia. It was crystallized in 1949 by Clarke and co-workers. It is structurally closely related to the toxins cicutoxin and carotatoxin. Oenanthotoxin is a C17 polyacetylene isomer of cicutoxin.


Sardonicism is "the quality or state of being sardonic; an instance of this; a sardonic remark". A sardonic action is one that is "disdainfully or skeptically humorous" or "derisively mocking". A sardonic remark may be an imitation or intimation, to express conceitedness and boldness at events of adversity and to dissuade from follies. Also, when referring to laughter or a smile, it is "bitter, scornful, mocking". Hence, when referring to a person or a personal attribute, it is "[c]haracterized by or exhibiting bitterness, scorn or mockery". Sardonic remarks can often be to oneself, these are non-apologetic. Sardonic also expresses arrogance and an attitude that may indicate superiority.

Woolhayes Farm

Woolhayes Farm (grid reference ST315109) is a 13.2 hectare (32.5 acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest east of Combe St Nicholas in Somerset, notified in 1992.

This site comprises swamp, mire and grassland habitats which are now rare in Britain. It is the largest known example of its type in Somerset and the communities present are near the western limit of their geographical range. The flora includes corky-fruited water-dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides) which is a nationally scarce species. Breeding birds include grasshopper warbler (Locustella naevia) and reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus).

Yeading Brook Meadows

Yeading Brook Meadows is a 17 hectare Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in Yeading in the London Borough of Hillingdon. It is owned by Hillingdon Council and managed by the London Wildlife Trust (LWT). In the north it adjoins Ten Acre Wood across the Golden Bridge (over Yeading Brook) and Charville Lane; it then stretches south along the banks of the Yeading Brook to Yeading Lane. The reserve is also part of the Yeading Brook Meadows Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, which includes two neighbouring LNRs managed by the London Wildlife Trust, Ten Acre Wood and Gutteridge Wood and Meadows.

The site is mainly grassland, with a variety of wild flowers such as the narrow-leaved water dropwort and common spotted orchid. Invertebrates include Roesel's bush-crickets, shield bugs and skipper butterflies, and there are birds such as skylark and snipe.There is access from a number of points including Charville Lane, Kingshill Avenue and Greenway.


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