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Cow Parsnip

(Heracleum maximum)

Identification Gallery

Cow Parsnip Profile

Common Name(s): Cow parsnip, American parsnip, satan celery, Indian celery, Indian rhubarb, poison turnip, and pushki


Scientific Name: Heracleum maximum


Native Range: Throughout most of North America, except the Gulf Coast and a few other neighboring southern states.


USDA Symbol: HEMA80


Habitat: Woodlands, forest openings, grasslands, stream and river edges, ditches, and along roadsides.


Growing Conditions: Full sun, not shade tolerant.


Plant Height: 5-8 feet.


Stem Description: Noticeably ridged and hollow. Pinkish or purplish tinge, covered in soft hairs. Has a large, obvious sheath at the base of the leaf stalk.


Leaf Description: 2-2.5 feet across. Leaves are divided into three maple leaf-like leaflets. May appear velvety due to fine hairs. May be less obvious as plant ages.


Leaf Arrangement: Alternate.


Leaf Surface: Velvety appearance due to fine hairs.


Flowering Period: Early summer (May-June)

Flower Description: White, flat-topped umbel, up to 1 foot across. Outer flowers may be larger then inner flowers.


Flower Color: White.


Seed Description: Small 1/4" 1/2" long, flattened and ribbed. Start out bright green, but darken when they ripen and split into two seeds.


Benefits of this Species: Excellent plant for birds and pollinators.


Other Information:

*This plant is extremely toxic. It contains a phototoxin that reacts with ultraviolet light to cause skin irritation ranging from a mild rash to severe blistering. 

*It is the largest species in the carrot family in North America.


For More Information about this Species Please Visit:

Michigan State University


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


USDA Plants Database



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