Hedgerows and woodland edges are full of life and the Cow Parsley is suddenly tall and frothy with its delicate white flowers. At this time of year when the flowers are spread wide and flat, it's easy to see why it's also known as "Queen Anne's Lace".
When we were little we always knew it by its more threatening name, "Mother Die", although my memory of that was more once the flowers had finished and the distinctive seed head formed. I remember creating magic potions out of various seeds and desperately wanting to pick the cow parsley seed heads as they were so plentiful and interestingly shaped, but never daring to do so. We all believed that if we picked it our mothers may die. We could be forgiven for believing Cow Parsley has special properties: it's one of those plants that's barely there one minute and then suddenly grows like topsy and is everywhere.
The Mother Die name was probably deliberately used to discourage children from picking it because it can easily be confused with poisonous Hemlock and Hogweed whose sap causes nasty skin burns.
Cow Parsley is actually related to carrot and much enjoyed by bees and many insects so it's a useful plant. If you're absolutely certain that you've got the identification right, you can apparently add young leaves to salads. If you dare to pick it, the leaves have an aniseedy smell. Italian researchers have recently found that Cow Parsley may be useful as part of an anti-cancer drug. Sheep often love Cow Parsley, bashing the stems to release the juice on to their head so it acts as a natural fly repellent.