Ohio State University Extension Bulletin 866-98

Identifying Noxious Weeds of Ohio

Bulletin 866-98

Wild Parsnip
(Pastinaca sativa)

Habitat: wastelands, wet sites, roadsides and pastures, undisturbed ground

Life cycle: biennial

First Year Growth Habit: Rosette of basal leaves. Large, three-lobed leaves resemble celery.

Second Year Growth Habit: 2-5 feet, branched, flowering plant

Leaves: Alternate, pinnately compound with coarse saw-tooth edges; deeply lobed and not hairy. Up to 18 inches long.

Stem: hairy and grooved

Inflorescence: May-August (second year). Small flowers with five yellow or white petals borne in terminal umbels, 2-6 inches across.

Root: fleshy taproot

Similar plants: Second-year plant is somewhat similar to poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). The leaves of poison hemlock are usually more finely divided and its stems are hollow and purplish.

The problem is.... wild parsnip produces huge amounts of seed, allowing it to persist and spread. NOTE: Although wild parsnip has edible roots, it should be avoided because of the possibility of confusion with poison hemlock. Additionally, the leaves of wild parsnip cause a painful and potentially serious rash on some people. Skin sensitivity is greatest at flowering time.

Wild parsnip in its first year of growth

Wild parsnip in its first year of growth.

wild parsnip has yellow umbels

Usually wild parsnip has yellow umbels, as in this picture, but it may
also have white flowers, resembling poison hemlock.

The leaves of wild parsnip are not as finely divided as poison hemlock

The leaves of wild parsnip are not as finely divided as poison hemlock,
however, and its stem is ridged and green.


Back | Forward | Table of Contents