Pastinaca sativa: Wild parsnip

Pastinaca sativa is a biennial/perennial herb that looks and smells similar to cultivated parsnip and can grow up to 4 ft. [1.2 m] in height. Flowering occurs from May to June, when hundreds of yellow flowers develop. Flowers arranged in an umbel.


Found in open places along roadsides and in waste places throughout the northern United States and Canada, from British Columbia to California and Vermont south to Florida. It endures a wide range of edaphic conditions, usually dry to mesic soils, but occasionally  in wet meadows. Best grows on calcareous, alkaline soils.


Pastinaca sativa is native to Eurasia and occurs in sunny areas with varying degrees of soil moisture. Contact with this plant can cause skin to become photosensitive; exposure to sunlight can cause severe blistering. Be aware, poison hemlock [Conium sp.] and water hemlock [Cicuta sp.] are close in appearance and are often confused with Pastinaca sativa. Poison hemlock has a mouse-like odor while Pastinaca sativa has a parsnip-like odor. Water hemlock prefers wet habitats whereas Pastinaca sativa prefers dry soils.

Photo: AtlantaGA. [20130803]

Source: BugwoodWiki


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