Another “giant” member of the Carrot Family with small, white flowers arranged in compound umbels is Brewer’s angelica (Angelica brewerii). This genus name, Angelica, derives from the Latin for angel. This refers to the myth that the members of this genus were revealed by an archangel as a remedy for plagues or cholera. Therefore, angelicas were believed to have healing powers. An alternate explanation for the genus name is that these plants bloom around the Feast of the Apparation of St. Michael (May 8th on the old calendar) and thus are protection against bad spirits and witches. The species name, brewerii, is less ambiguous. It honors to the American botanist and professor, William Henry Brewer (1828 – 1910).
Brewer’s angelica is a native perennial inhabiting forested mountain slopes up to 9,500 feet in elevation. It’s range is limited to California and Nevada.
The erect, finely hairy stem of Brewer’s angelica derives from a stout taproot. The hollow stem can grow up to 7 feet in height.
The large leaves of Brewer’s angelica can be a foot or more across. The leaves are ternately (in threes)-pinnately dissected. The leaflets have serrate edges and pointed tips. The basal part of the leaf enclosing the stem (sheath) is enlarged. Brewer’s angelica looks very much like water hemlock. One way of separating the two plants is through the leaf venation. The main veins of Brewer’s angelica terminate at the tips of the leaf margin teeth while the veins of water hemlock end between the teeth.
Although Brewer’s angelica flowers are small, the inflorescence is a large, conspicuous, compound umbel. Each umbellet is composed of many small white flowers. Each flower has five petals, 5 protruding white stamens and a single greenish-white pistil.
The fruits are strongly flattened and narrowly winged.
These Brewer’s angelica plants were photographed along Fender’s Ferry Road in the Shasta Trinity National Forest (Shasta County CA) in June.