Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)


Appearance: Monocarpic perennial herbaceous plant (plant spends one or more years in rosette stage, blooms under favorable conditions, and then dies), 6" high in the rosette stage and 4' high on stout, grooved stems in the flowering stage.

Leaves: Alternate, leaf is made up of 5 -15 egg shaped leaflets along both sides of a common stalk; leaflets sharply-toothed or lobed at the margins; upper leaves smaller.

Flowers: Flat-topped broad flower cluster 2 - 6" wide, numerous five-petaled yellow flowers; bloom from June to late summer.

Seeds: Small, flat, round, slightly ribbed, strawcolored, abundant take 3 weeks to ripen before they can reseed; viable in the soil for 4 years.

Roots: Long, thick, edible taproot.

Warning - Avoid skin contact with the toxic sap of the plant tissue by wearing gloves, long sleeves and long pants. The juice of wild parsnip in contact with skin in the presence of sunlight can cause a rash and blistering and discoloration of the skin (phytophotodermatitis).

Ecological Threat:

  • Wild parsnip readily moves into disturbed habitats, along edges and or in disturbed patches. It invades slowly, but once population builds it spreads rapidly and can severely modify open dry, moist, and wet-moist habitats.  Wild parsnip has also been found to invade native prairies.
  • Wild parsnip is most abundant in southeastern Minnesota, but is present in most counties in Minnesota.
  • A native of Europe and Asia this plant has escaped from cultivation.  It is grown as root vegetable and is common throughout the U.S.
  • Wild parsnip is a MDA Prohibited Noxious Weed (Control List) in Minnesota.


Control Methods:


  • Hand pulling and removing of plants
  • Cut the plant below the root crown before seeds set, and remove the cut plant
  • Mow or cut the base of the flowering stem and remove


  • Use sparingly in quality habitats
  • Spot application with glyphosate or selective metsulfuron after a prescribed burn, parsnip is one of the first plants to green up


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources