A family, formerly known as Umbelliferae, of dicotyledonous (see dicotyledon) herbs, with a few shrubs, in which the alternate leaves are usually much divided and have sheathing stalks at the base. The flowers are characteristically borne in umbels, which are usually compound, and have a tiny calyx of 5 teeth, or no calyx. There are 5 free petals, which are often notched and sometimes very unequal in size; 5 stamens alternating with the petals; and an inferior ovary of 2 fused carpels, which ripens into 2 separating but indehiscent parts, which may remain suspended from the tip of the axis. The carpels each bear 5 (or sometimes 9) ridges, usually with 4 oil-canals (vittae) between the main ridges and 2 more on the inner faces. This large family contains many important food plants, e.g. Daucus (carrot), Pastinaca (parsnip), and Apium (celery); while others are very poisonous, e.g. Oenanthe (water dropwort), or are used medicinally. There are some 420 genera, with 3100 species, found throughout most of the world, but mainly in northern temperate regions.
Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry.