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Wild Parsnip

Common Name: Wild Parsnip

Scientific Name: Pastinaca sativa

Habitat & Range: wet, sunny fields and roadsides

Bloom Time: spring and summer

About: Not all flat-topped wildflowers are white. A few of them are yellow. Growing right along with the Yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace from weeks past I spotted Wild Parsnip (not to be confused with the white-flowered Cow Parsnip, which I mentioned in the entry on Water Hemlock). All of these photos (along with many others) were taken on the same day in one small area on Mackinac Island near Mission Point Resort. Like Queen Anne’s Lace and Water Hemlock, Wild Parsnip is part of the carrot family and is a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies. Like Queen Anne’s Lace, this was a European garden plant that has escaped. You can only eat the long taproot of this plant in the first year of growth (after that it gets too woody). But beware of the parts of the plant that sit above the ground. If you are sensitive to it, the leaves can cause photodermatitis if touched. This means that after you touch the plant, if you are exposed to sunlight, your skin can blister and weep (eww), so wear long sleeves and gloves. Very inconsiderately, this plant’s flower looks like dill, but one look at the leaves and you will know it’s not.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000