Authentic Wisconsin.  Cow Parsnip - Heracleum maximum


 Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on May 31, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Above: Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on May 31, 2019.


Cow Parsnip - Heracleum maximum

Cow Parsnip is a perennial in the carrot family that can reach heights of up to 7'- 10' tall.

The flowers are white, 5-parted, petals notched; inflorescence a 4"-8" compound, flat umbel with 15-30 stalked umbellets.

Uses – The thick flower stems, coming into season in early summer, can be peeled and eaten cooked when young; however, caution should be taken as the flowers resemble those of the extremely poisonous Cicuta maculata. Also, Cow parsnip closely resembles the invasive giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) whose sap is said to be more aggressively dermatitis-inducing. As of 2019, giant hogweed had only been identified in six Wisconsin counties (Iron, Eau Claire, Portage, Waupaca, Manitowoc and Milwaukee). To help identify the differences between the two plants, visit the Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium; or, visit Heracleum mantegazzianum vs. Heracleum maximum at Connecticut Invasive plant

Cow parsnip is a valuable pasture plant for cows, sheep, and goats. It is also known to be important in the diets of numerous wild animals, especially bears, both grizzly and black.

Indigenous North Americans have had a variety of uses for cow parsnip, often traveling long distances in the spring—50 miles (80 km) or more—to find the succulent plant shoots. The young stems and leafstalks were peeled and usually eaten raw. In terms of taste, texture, and nutrients, the peeled stalks resembled celery, which gave rise to the common name "Indian celery". The natives were aware of the toxic effects of the plant, knowing that if the outer skin were not removed, one would get an "itchy mouth" or blistering skin.

CAUTION: Always refer to a reputable field guide when considering whether to use a plant for medicinal purposes or if you think it might have edible parts. DO NOT rely on the photos displayed on this page for plant identification.

Other names for Cow Parsnip : American cow-parsnip, Indian celery, Indian rhubarb or pushki.

Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on May 31, 2019.

Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on May 31, 2019.

Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on May 31, 2019.

Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on May 31, 2019.


Above: Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on May 31, 2019.



For more information on Cow Parsnip, visit Wikipedia.

Or, visit the UW-Madison Wisconsin State Herbarium website page about Heracleum maximum.

Or, visit the Forager Chef website page about Cow Parsnip.


Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna in Madison, Wisconsin on May 31, 2020.
Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna in Madison, Wisconsin on May 31, 2020.
Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna in Madison, Wisconsin on May 31, 2020.
Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna in Madison, Wisconsin on May 31, 2020.
Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna in Madison, Wisconsin on May 31, 2020.
Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna in Madison, Wisconsin on June 4, 2020.

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Wisconsin Wildflowers


Cow Parsnip
Heracleum maximum


Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on June 2, 2019.


Above: Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna. (6/2/19)


Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on June 5, 2019.

Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on June 5, 2019.

Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on June 5, 2019.

Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on June 5, 2019.


Above: Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna. (6/5/19)


Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on June 9, 2019.


Above: Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna. (6/9/19)



Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna on June 4, 2020.


Above: Cow Parsnip near Council Ring in Oak Savanna. (6/4/20)



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