Pastinaca sativa (Wild Parsnip)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Pastinaca
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:biennial, short-lived perennial
Origin:Eurasia
Status:
  • Early Detection weed, Ramsey County
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
  • Noxious Weed
  • Prohibited or Restricted species
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):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] Yellow flowers in flat clusters 3 to 8 inches across at the end of branching stems. Individual flowers are tiny with 5 petals that curl under, 5 yellow stamens, and a greenish yellow center.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] 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.

[photo of stem] Stems are hairless, grooved or ridged, and branched in the upper plant. First year plant is a rosette of compound leaves with flattened, grooved stalks.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of mature fruit] Fruit is flattened, oval, slightly ribbed, about ¼ inch long that ripens to brown and splits into 2 seeds. The ribs are slightly winged which help it float to new locations via water or wind.

Notes:

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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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Mower and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Mower, Winona and Cass counties.

Comments

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

Posted by: john - stearns and todd counties
on: 2011-06-21 11:10:22

Stearns county along # 94 and todd county- along highway 11, highway 27 and highway 2. I have seen much of these plants spread in the past couple years- I've recently sprayed/pulled out as much as I could on my land and the neighbors land; listen to the directions offered...use the protective clothing. I don't believe cutting them as they seed kills them- like thistle, I believe the energy stored is still used in the plant to produce the seeds to a mature state in which they will continue to reproduce the following year.

Posted by: Diane - Zumbro Falls
on: 2011-07-01 15:19:00

Prevalent in ditches leading up to the Zumbro Falls Woods SNA...

Posted by: Pam - Douglas County
on: 2012-09-18 12:23:30

We found these in our roadside ditches about two years ago. We are in SW Douglas County very near Pope Cty. Dug and pulled them but they had already spread across the road so hard to control. Will a good broadleaf spray kill them?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-09-18 12:49:53

I suggest starting here for info on various control methods: Midwest Invasive Plant Network.

Posted by: Julie - Duluth, MN
on: 2013-06-25 07:43:06

I found a few rosettes coming up in my flower garden in summer 2012. I weeded them out because I didn't know what they were. This summer I let one plant develop to flowering so that I could identify it. I will weed them out with more vigor now that I realize that this is a noxious invader.

Posted by: Rose - Cottonwood County
on: 2015-05-20 17:46:48

This plant is becoming more and more of a problem. There are some large areas of it around the town of Windom. We just recently found some first year rosettes in our prairie; we will be making every effort to keep it from becoming established.

Posted by: Richelle - Southwest Minneapolis - Lake Harriet
on: 2016-06-18 11:37:36

I think I just got a this on my hands as it looks like the huge blisters that all the pictures show. I am not sure at all where I got it as I didn't notice any strange plants in my little garden of flowers.

Posted by: Donna - Cokato
on: 2016-06-25 12:45:14

Meeker county along HWY 15 south between Dassel and Hutchinson. Meeker county is loaded with it!

Posted by: ACMG - New Ulm, Brown County
on: 2016-07-01 00:20:26

This is all over the bike trail in New Ulm as well as in roadside ditches.

Posted by: Patricia - Saint Paul
on: 2016-07-06 21:07:44

Wild parsnip was in practically all of the roadside ditches between Rochester and Lanesboro as of July, 2016. Seems to have choked out much else. I am wondering whether planting parsnip in my vegetable gardens will hasten the spread of wild parsnip.

Posted by: Ann - Becker County
on: 2016-07-06 21:13:38

I believe there are several clusters along county road 150. I took pictures and the leaves match.

Posted by: Sue R - Belle Creek Twp, Goodhue County
on: 2017-06-07 00:43:54

I have at least 6 isolated plants throughout my meadows. I did not notice these last year. One plant already has a flower head.

Posted by: Jean E - Pelland and International Falls, MN
on: 2017-07-01 12:37:43

The wild parsnip is very thick along roadside ditches of Highway 11 and 71 by Pelland going east to International Falls. It has invaded the adjacent woodlands and area home lots along the Littlefork River. We need help to control it. Sprays might hurt pollinators. Mechanical means of control are safest for the environment.

Posted by: Susan R. - Eastern Wright county
on: 2017-07-11 23:39:40

New this year in a garden bed that had become weedy from non-use last season. Thought it was dill at first. Have not seen this plant in surrounding fields or ditches.

Posted by: Elizabeth - Douglas County/Lake Osakis
on: 2017-08-02 23:10:12

Found several plants (3-5 ft high) along gravel road and ditch. These were not present last summer.

Posted by: Glenn H - Faribault
on: 2017-09-07 11:13:49

I noted that many seed heads appear to have lost their seeds by the end of the first week in September. Do the plants just drop their seeds or birds in taking the seeds and promoting their distribution. The plants appear to spread quickly through a meadow. Do birds facilitate seed distribution?

Posted by: cheryl batson - hennepin and scott county
on: 2018-06-30 08:46:15

I have been having very good success this year using the shovel called.the parsnip predator. I've used the shovel on queen Anne lace, parsnip, and burdock all with.no regrowth so far. I started in on the burdock in early may so regrowth should have happened by now. Wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves. You don't want any sap to touch your skin or you will get burned with parsnip and queen Anne lace. I have also been able to hand pull parsnip after a good rain though not always. I volunteer getting invasives out of various parks.

Posted by: Barb kelley - Grant
on: 2018-07-03 17:01:19

Does Roundup kill the plants.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-07-03 17:14:46

Barb, Roundup is intended for perennials. Wild parsnip is a biennial so chemical treatment will only kill this year's plants preventing further seed production, which is a good thing but not enough to wipe it out. The biggest problem with annuals and biennials is the seed bank, which Roundup doesn't affect. If you have a large infestation it can take years to deplete.

Posted by: Linda Beegan - SW Douglas County
on: 2019-06-26 15:46:25

I’ve been fighting this in my gardens for 2 years. Last night saw a large group along County Road 4 just east of Pocket Lake and south of Lake Mary.

Posted by: Jan Fisher - Pine Island
on: 2019-07-01 17:06:41

I have a "non-garden" garden area and each year something different comes up. This year the wild parsnip came up. Nuf said!

Posted by: chad - Springstead, WI
on: 2019-07-24 09:32:19

Is wild parsnip a different plant from garden parsnip? Wis DNR list Wild Parsnip as Pastinaca sativa subspecies (pratesis) My garden catalog (Johnny's) lists garden parsnip as Pastinaca sativa, without the subspecies notation. Thanks, Chad

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-07-26 16:05:10

Chad, they are the same species; var. pratensis is a synonym for P. sativa (no var.). Please do not plant it.

Posted by: Nancy - Longville (Cass County)
on: 2019-08-13 15:42:29

I thought it was dill until a neighbor educated me. It is just starting to invade from our other neighbor's property. I've seen it here and there in roadside ditches.

Posted by: Julie Miedtke - Botany bog---parking lot
on: 2020-06-26 11:41:45

we drove up county road 39, near Blackduck to look at the showy lady slippers and botany bog. the parking lot has wild parsnip growing. UGH!!!!!

Posted by: Emma Day - Duluth
on: 2020-09-11 17:26:43

I just want to chime in and say that this plant has edible and actually very tasty roots - just like garden parsnip. Maybe some of the vehemence many of you have for this "obnoxious weed" that results in the application of toxic chemicals (chemicals which negatively affect entire ecosystems, watersheds, other plants, animals, and humans alike) could instead be funneled into something bit more creative and nourishing: eating the invasives! Since it's in the Umbelliferae family it's crucial to have a 100% positive ID before ingesting them, but this plant really has very little resemblance to any poisonous relatives, and is so abundant and tasty.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-09-11 23:11:19

Emma, the vehemence for this plant little, if anything, to do with toxic chemicals that might be applied to it, but the fact that it is invasive, ubiquitous, and causes severe burns if the sap from broken stems and leaves gets on your skin. It is foolish to suggest the thousands of acres infested with this invader in Minnesota alone should be left alone so a handful of foragers can harvest it. If you want to cultivate it, do it in your own yard and leave the natural areas out of it. Please.

Posted by: Martina - Shakopee
on: 2021-04-12 20:27:16

Found a patch adjacent to a path in Louisville swamp. If I want to eradicate it, would the parks board allow me to dig it up (with the proper PPE)? I fear for the safety of people and pets as it is so close to the path, also seems to be a smaller infestation as of now.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-04-13 08:36:21

Martina, Louisville Swamp is not part of the county park system, but the National Wildlife Refuge, under the control of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I personally have no issue with someone hand pulling weeds but taking a shovel in would not be advised. I believe the info posted in the parking area has contact info. You should at least report the infestation.

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