Plant

Wild Parsnip

Wild parsnip, also known as poison parsnip, is native to Europe and Asia. The plant's root resembles the domestic parsnip and is also edible. It's likely that it was brought to North America by European settlers as a food source. Wild parsnip is related to giant hogweed and shares some similar properties, including sap that can cause irritation and burning if it comes into contact with skin and is exposed to sunlight. It grows very well on disturbed sites.

Identification
  • A biennial, meaning the plant only lives for two years and then dies
  • First year plants form low-growing leafy rosettes
  • In it's second year the plant produces a flowering stalk
  • Flowering portion is umbrella shaped (like Queen Anne's Lace) with small, yellow, 5-petaled flowers
  • Second year plants grow 50-150 cm in height
  • Leaves consist of 2-5 pairs of leaflets that grow opposite each other along the stem. They tend to be mitten-shaped, with serrated edges.
  • Terminal leaf is diamond-shaped
  • The stem is green and smooth, 2.5-5 cm thick, with few hairs
  • Spreads easily by seed by wind, water, attaching to clothing/equipment
Image gallery
Wild parsnip flowers. Photo by John Cardina, The Ohio State University.
Wild parsnip flowers. Photo by John Cardina, The Ohio State University.
Wild parsnip stem. Photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut.
Wild parsnip stem. Photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut.
Wild parsnip foliage. Photo by Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University.
Wild parsnip foliage. Photo by Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University.
Wild parsnip second year growth. Photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut.
Wild parsnip second year growth. Photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut.