Insight into Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris): the commonest early flowering member of the carrot family (Apiaceae formerly Umbelliferae), native and found throughout Britain. The flowers are white and the leaves are pinnate, having separate leaflets either side of the stalk.
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) is another member of the carrot family and it flowers even earlier than Cow Parsley. However, Alexanders, although abundant in Cornwall, is rare in northern England and Scotland.
They are easy to tell apart as Alexanders is more robust with glossy green leaves and yellow-green flowers whilst Cow Parsley is more delicate – see the image above right showing the two together on a roadside near Maenporth in Cornwall.