Pimpinella saxifraga (Burnet Saxifrage)

Plant Info
Also known as: Solid-stem Burnet Saxifrage
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Europe, Asia
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed, often rocky soil; fields, roadsides
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:2 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: UPL NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat clusters (umbels) made up of 7 to 20 groups (umbellets) of 10 to 20 flowers each. Flowers are white, sometimes tinged pink, about 1/6 inch across with 5 petals, a creamy colored center and a pair of styles at the top.

[photo of bractless umbel] The base of both the umbel and umbellets typically have no bracts, occasionally one. Umbellet stalks are 1 to 1½ inches long. Umbels are 2 to 3 inches across.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed

[photo of lower leaf] Leaves are few and widely spaced, alternate, pinnately compound and variously covered in short hairs. The lowest leaves are up to 12 inches long, its leaflets oval to nearly round with large, coarse teeth. Leaves become progressively smaller as they ascend the stem, becoming deeply lobed in the upper plant.

[photo of stem and sheath] At the base of the leaf is a sheath that wraps around the stem. In the upper stem a leaf may be absent leaving only the sheath. Stems are densely covered in very short hairs and have faint ribbing. Plants are few branched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a flattened oval pod with faint ribs, less than 1/8 inch long, and splits into 2 seeds.


Just what we needed - a new non-native carrot species. Burnet Saxifrage is not on many people's radar at this time and is no doubt under-reported in the state due to its (superficial) similarities to other weedy white carrot species, most of which have more finely divided leaves. Its lower leaves and seedlings more closely resemble Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), which has yellow flowers and causes severe burns when affected skin is exposed to sunlight. We found Burnet Saxifrage growing alongside Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota), a much more widespread species with showy bracts, and we received a report from Beltrami County, where it was described as “invading our fields from a neighbor and is laying down a mat that nothing else grows through”. Wisconsin recognizes Burnet Saxifrage as a new invasive species, or at least a species to watch, and it is apparently under-reported there as well.

When we wrote the above paragraph in 2014, Burnet Saxifrage was a virtual unknown in Minnesota, with only 3 reported sightings. In 5 years it has raced across northern Minnesota from Polk and Marshall counties in the west to St. Louis in the east (see distribution map as of 2019 or the latest info on EDDMapS) and is still very likely under-reported here. In Wisconsin, we've seen it take over vast tracts of land with a dense monoculture and there is no reason to believe it will behave any differently in Minnesota. In 2015, Minnesota's Weed Advisory Group completed a risk assessment of this species and determined it was not a risk, though it should remain on the “watch list”. At the rate this group moves, it may be another 5 years before they decide it's a big enough problem for them to take further action but by then it will be like Tansy or Wild Parsnip—too widespread for effective control, let alone eradication.

It can be said that there are insufficient resources for Minnesota's agencies to tackle every known (potentially) invasive weed taking over the landscape and consequently they have to limit their focus. There is truth to that, but the fact remains that, while their attention is on Oriental Bittersweet or Grecian Foxglove (currently on the Eradicate list but with little hope of actual eradication), species like Burnet Saxifrage are allowed to run rampant, making the whole weed program not terribly effective. We don't have an answer to this, except to encourage people to contact your legislators or local agencies to make such weeds a higher priority. And volunteer to help eradicate known populations, an essentially thankless but necessary job.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Elm Creek Park Preserve, Hennepin County, and in Wisconsin. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken at Elm Creek Park Preserve.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Laura - St. Louis County
on: 2016-10-20 11:10:20

Spotted on a roadside in St. Louis County near Highway 53 south of Cook. Confirmed by the Forest Service.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-10-20 14:59:04

Unfortunately, this weed is a lot more widespread than official records show and is just now being reported in a lot of areas. :-(

Posted by: Jeffrey F - St. Louis County
on: 2016-12-12 09:16:02

Also found along Hwy 169, south of Fortune Bay and is growing on private property where it is seen along the highway.

Posted by: Andrew Sleger - Iowa county, WI
on: 2019-07-31 11:16:23

I'm a land manager for The Prairie Enthisiasts (non-profit organization that also exists in MN). There is an infestation of PIM SAX in an old pasture that we are converting into native prairie. I notice that I begin to feel sick to my stomach after mowing flowering plants after about 2 hours. Has anybody else shared a similar experience? As far as treatment I've had success spraying Triclopyr 3a in 3% solution in order to kill Burnet Saxifrage. I mow it while its flowering to prevent seed production, then spray it later in fall when native species are closer to dormancy.

Posted by: Samuel Thayer - between Red Lake and Bagley
on: 2022-02-15 21:00:38

In 2018 I saw several hayfields between Red Lake and Bagley where this was common. It seems to prefer sandy soil. It has been one of the most common roadside weeds around Hayward, WI for at least 25 years, and is spreading steadily in all directions, now having established a large colony along Hwy 48 just NE of Rice Lake.

Posted by: Bonnie Gruberman - Edina & Richfield
on: 2022-05-08 14:10:09

In my friend's lawn, she's concerned it will take over, looks a bit like Yarrow..

Posted by: Tracy Neil - Bigfork
on: 2022-07-04 15:24:59

Looks very much like northern bedstraw which is native. The only difference I can see in bedstraw has four petal flowers and burnet saxifrage has five

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-04 16:44:10

Tracy, the leaves are so different between the two that you can't really mix them up. Also, burnet saxifrage flowers are arranged in umbels, which means the flower stalks all arise from the same point on the stem like the spines of an umbrella. Northern bedstraw flowers are in branching clusters. The only real similarity between the two species is they both have white flowers and grow about 3 feet tall.

Posted by: Julie Miedtke - Thompson Hill overlook-Rest area
on: 2022-07-14 14:18:05

Several plants growing with the tansy near the State Highway Patrol shop. Good grief

Posted by: Jim Cramton - Alaska Township, Beltrami County
on: 2023-08-14 11:36:16

Spotted in some neglected CRP. A sunny, little bit drier site.

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