Pastinaca sativa (Wild Parsnip)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||biennial, short-lived perennial|
|Habitat:||sun; average to moist soil, wet meadows, open fields, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||2 to 5 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Leaves and stem:
Leaves are compound with 5 to 15 leaflets each, up to 18 inches long and 6 inches across, becoming smaller with fewer leaflets as they ascend the stem. Leaflets are oblong-elliptic and coarsely toothed, hairless, often cleft or with shallow lobes. Leaves near the base of the plant are long-stalked.
This obnoxious weed was first widely seen throughout SE Minnesota, choking roadsides, but has now spread north and west rapidly, typically following transportation corridors as many weeds do. The MN Department of Transportation tries to impliment and maintain cooperative weed managment programs but once more - so much to do, so little money. Wild Parnsip is on the top weed list for Ramsey County, but without a statewide program to eradicate it they don't stand much of a chance. Wild Parsnip may be mistaken for the native Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), which has smaller clusters (3 inches or less across) of brighter yellow flowers and leaves compound in 3s.
A serious note on this plant: it contains furocoumarins which can make skin sensitive to light, a condition known as phytophotodermatitis, causing severe burns and blisters. A good article showing the effects is at ThePoisonGarden.co.uk. Rubber gloves, long sleeves and long pants should be worn if hand-pulling this pest plant.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Wild Parsnip plant
- first year rosette
- spring growth of an infestation
- more Wild Parsnip plants
- Wild Parsnip infestation #1
- Wild Parsnip infestation #2
- emerging in early June
- emerging with dandelions
- example of phytophotodermatitis (from USDA archives)
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Mower and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Mower, Winona and Cass counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?