Carrot family (Apiaceae)
This perennial wildflower is 3-8'
tall, branching sparingly. The large
hollow stems are pale purple to dark purple, terete, glabrous, and
often glaucous. Alternate compound leaves occur along the stems,
primarily along the lower-half of each plant. The compound leaves are
½-2' long, ½-2' across, and widest at their bases. The structure
of the compound leaves is bipinnate with 3-5 leaflets or subleaflets
per division. The subleaflets are ¾-4½" long and ½-2½" across; they are
more or less ovate in shape and their margins are serrated. Some
subleaflets are shallowly to deeply cleft into lobes. The upper surface
of the subleaflets is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the
lower surface is pale or whitish green and glabrous. The subleaflets
are either sessile or they have short petioles; they often have winged
extensions at their bases that join the branches of the rachis. The
petioles are long, stout, and conspicuously sheathed
at their bases; both the petioles and their sheaths are green
to light purple to dark purple, glabrous, and often
The upper stems
terminate in one or more compound umbels of flowers spanning 3-9"
across; they are globoid in shape. Sometimes the peduncle of a compound
umbel will branch and terminate in another compound umbel. Each
compound umbel has 15-40 rays (floral branches) that terminate in small
umbellets. Each umbellet has numerous greenish white to pale yellow
flowers on pedicels about ½" in length. Each flower is up to ¼" across,
consisting of 5 petals with incurved tips, a light green calyx without
significant lobes, 5 stamens, and a pistil with a divided style. The
blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and lasts about
3 weeks. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by dry seed-like fruits
(consisting of double achenes). The fruits are 5-8
mm. in length, oblongoid-ovoid in shape, and slightly flattened; each
side of the fruit has 3 longitudinal ridges. Immature fruits are
greenish yellow, turning brown at maturity. Each
achene has a pair of lateral wings along its
main body; it is convex and ridged on one side, while the other side is
flat. The root system consists of a short stout taproot.
preference is full or partial sun, consistently wet to moist
conditions, and loamy or sandy soil with decaying organic matter. Soil
pH should be mildly acidic to alkaline. Standing water is
well-tolerated. Individual plants can vary considerably in size
depending on environmental conditions.
Range & Habitat:
native Great Angelica is occasional in northern Illinois, while in the
rest of the state it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution
Habitats include openings in bottomland woodlands, swamps, soggy
thickets, edges of woodlands adjoining wetlands, marshes, fens, and
seeps, including the lower slopes of hillside seeps. This robust
wildflower is typically found in calcareous habitats with a stable
supply of moisture.
Associations: The flowers attract
Syrphid flies, bee flies, Andrenid bees, and other small bees. These
visitors are attracted primarily to the nectar of the flowers. A
relatively small number of insects are known to feed on Great Angelica.
These species include the aphids Aphis
thaspii and Cavariella
caterpillars of Papaipema
birdi (Umbellifer Borer Moth) and Papaipema
harrisii (Cow Parsnip Borer Moth), and caterpillars of the
asterius (Black Swallowtail).
A woodland border near a fen at the
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in NW Indiana.
Great Angelica can be distinguished from similar species in
the Carrot family by its large size, hollow purplish stems, and
spherical compound umbels. Sometimes an aromatic Eurasia
archangelica (Garden Angelica), is cultivated in
gardens. It differs from Great Angelica by its biennial habit and
greenish stems. So far, there are no records of Garden Angelica
naturalizing in Illinois. A native perennial species, Angelica venenosa
(Wood Angelica), is found in southern Illinois, where it occurs in dry
rocky habitats. Wood Angelica has more narrow sheaths at the bases of
its petioles than Great Angelica, and their are fine hairs on its
fruits. Another common name of Angelica
atropurpurea is Purple-Stemmed Angelica.