Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: two plants to ward off scurvy

with 12 comments

On the grounds surrounding the museum in Russell on February 10th I found various cultivated native plants, along with little signs that identified some of them. The one shown above is Apium prostratum subsp. prostratum var. filiforme (yikes!), known in Māori as tutae koau and in English as shore celery and New Zealand celery. The one shown below is Lepidium oleraceum, called nau in Māori and Cooks [sic] scurvy grass in English. British sailors ate both of them to ward off scurvy, as the last link and another explain in more detail; in fact those plants were the first two ever gathered for food by Europeans in New Zealand.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2017 at 4:56 AM

12 Responses

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  1. I’m left wondering if that celery smells like celery. It certainly looks like it – or even flat-leaved parsley. We get a Danish Scurvy grass on our coast here. Never tried to eat it though


    April 23, 2017 at 5:29 AM

    • I missed my chance to sniff or nibble those two New Zealand plants. In Texas we have a member of the family called prairie parsley, and I did munch a leaf once to see how it tastes. Not very good, I’m afraid. Now it’s your turn to try some Danish scurvy grass and report back to us.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2017 at 7:34 AM

  2. Here in Illinois we have several look-alike plants, some of them deadly.


    April 23, 2017 at 10:03 AM

  3. I saw the title and immediately thought, ‘purslane!’


    the blossoms remind me of water hemlock, but yes, it definitely looks like celery!

  4. I took one look at the leaves of the shore celery and thought, “Those resemble prairie parsley leaves.” I discovered that both plants are in the same family, the Apiaceae, and then saw your confirming comment. (Make that “comments” — I just saw your mention of the family name.) The prairie parsley is running amok just now, and I’ve been watching the development of the leaves, to see if they keep the shape of the initial leaves I saw on the burned prairie, and they certainly do.

    I’d rather ward off scurvy with citrus, but these plants would do if oranges and lemons weren’t around.


    April 25, 2017 at 9:23 PM

    • I haven’t heard of any native citrus in New Zealand, so I expect the early British sailors were only too happy to find these vitamin-C-supplying plants from the celery family, whatever they might have tasted like.

      I’m glad to hear the prairie parsley in Texas is having a good season. The flower clusters and resulting seeds should give you plenty of chances for pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2017 at 10:46 PM

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