General: Highly toxic, wild version of the agriculture parsnip plant. It is in the carrot family.
Height: Grows between 0.5 to 1.5m tall.
Flowers: Yellow flowers grow at the top of the plant in an umbrella shape. Each flower is very small with 5 petals.
Leaves/Stems: The stem is light green and deeply grooved. Leaves are approximately 15cm in length with saw toothed edges. Leaves have leaflets that grow across from each other on the stem. There are 2-5 pairs of leaflets with a diamond-shaped one at the end. Young plants have leaves that resemble mittens.
Root: Taproot. It looks like the parsnip that you’d buy in the grocery store.
Bird’s Nest, Common Parsnip, Poison Parsnip, Hart’s Eye
In the Lillooet region, Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum) would mostly like be confused with wild parsnip. Other look alikes include Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) Angelica (Angelica spp.).
Differences: You can tell the difference between most of the look alikes and Wild Parnsip by the flower colour. Wild parsnip has yellow flowers and the rest are white (Angelica has greenish-white).
Where did it come from? Introduced from European settlers. It was brought to Canada in the early 1600’s.
Where does it grow here? It grows in a variety of soil types and prefers exposed, full sun areas. It can be found on disturbed sites like roadsides, agriculture fields and watercourses. It has been found in a restored wetland area in Lillooet.
Reproduction: Only by seed. One plant can produce 975 seeds.
When does it grow, flower & seed? Sprouts April-May. Flowers Spring-early Summer. Seeds August-September. This plant takes 2-3 years to mature and flower. It spends its first year (s) as a small plant growing lower to the ground (described as a basal rosette).
Spreads By: Seeds are moved by wind, water, mowing equipment or soil movement.
Plant Type: Monocarpic perennial. This is a type of plant that flowers once in its life, produces seed and dies.
Tassie, Danielle and Sherman, Kellie. 2014. Invasive Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) Best Management Practices in Ontario. Ontario Invasive Plant Council, Peterborough, ON.