Permaculture Tip of the Day – The Apiaceae / Umbel Family

Apiaceae Family1
The Apiaceae’s (often referred to as Umbels or the Umbel family) are a family of plants that have very intrinsic and pervasive characteristics to their name. The latin Apiaceae refers to their well-known trait as apiary plants. This means that they provide a sustained and important nectar source for bees and other pollinating insects. For people planting orchards or an apiary garden, these guys are extremely effective understory planting. You always see the bugs circling around them.
Aside from that they provide some another interesting ecological functions. For one they are a pest deterrent by way of their aromatic qualities. Just like the mint family, these plants often times produce aromatic oils that will mask the chemical scents of host plants (your garden veggies) stopping pest insects from finding them. For two, they are predator and parasite attractors. This means that the nectar provided by these flowers attract certain species of wasps (that will either predate or parasitize pest insects. The hollow stems of their flowers are also an important habitat for these wasps. This means that having a collection of umbel species continuously flowering can mean great things; it’s like an immune system for your garden!
Aside from all this, most umbels are either a culinary/medicinal herb, or vegetable lending them to another important usage. They also tap-rooted pioneer species making them suitable for almost any terrain/environment. They are generally annual or biennial, and can be identified by their flowers which come from a central main stem and look like an upside down umbrella.

Edibles in the Apiaceae Family

  • Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)
  • Carrots (Daucus carota)
  • Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa)
  • Celery (Apium graveolens)
  • Water celery (Vallisneria americana)
  • Angelica (Angelica spp.)
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens)
  • Queen Anne’s/Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
  • Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)
  • Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  • Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
  • Many endemic wild species

Common Traits of the Umbels

  • Insect nectary/apiary
  • Bio-diversity attractor
  • Aromatic pest deterrent
  • No pest or disease problems
  • Spread by seed
  • Predatory and parasitic wasp attractor
  • Tap-rooted pioneer plants
  • Insect habitat
  • Culinary/medicinal herbs
  • Vegetables
  • Annual/ biennial

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