Black Lovage

This genus of seven or eight species of biennials and short-lived perennials occurs in W Europe an Mediterranean regions. Smyrnium olusatrun, a coastal species, is a celery-like plant that was known to Theophrastus in 322BCE and described as a pot herb by Pliny in the first century CE. Its main asset as a garden plant is that it comes into growth early in the year, and bears attractive black seed heads in the summer. The name, olus, "pot herb", and atrum, "black" (referring to the black seeds), is derived from this use. Smyrnium olusatrum is still primarily a pot herb. Now obsolete as a medicinal plant, it was once used for asthma, menstrual problems, and wounds. Smyrnium is from the Greek smyrna, "myrrh", referring to the aroma of these plants.

Stout perennial with solid, furrowed stems and shiny, deeply divided leaves to 30cm (12in) long. Umbels of tiny yellow-green flowers appear in spring, followed by aromatic, black fruits, about 7mm (¼in) long.

Common Name:
Black Lovage
Other Names:
Botanical Name:
Smyrnium olusatrum
Native Location:
Europe, SW Asia and N Africa
Moist, rich, sandy soil in sun.
By seed sown in late summer or early spring.
Leaves, young stems and shoots, and flower buds are picked in spring and early summer. Roots are lifted in autumn. All parts are used fresh. Seeds are collected when ripe and stored whole or ground.
50cm-1.5m (1¾-5ft)
30-90cm (12-36in)
Parts Used:
Leaves, young stems and shoots, roots, flowers, seeds.
A bitter, diuretic herb, with a celery-like flavor, that benefits the digestion.
Medicinal Uses:
Medicinal uses are obsolete.
Culinary Uses:
Leaves, young leaf stalks, shoots, and roots are cooked as vegetables, and added to soups and stews. Flower buds make a pleasant addition to salads. Spicy seeds may be ground as a condiment.
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 371