Pastinaca sativa (Wild Parsnip)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:biennial, short-lived perennial
  • Early Detection weed, Ramsey County
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
  • Noxious Weed
  • Prohibited or Restricted species
Habitat:sun; average to moist soil, wet meadows, open fields, roadsides
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Yellow flowers in flat clusters 3 to 8 inches across at the end of branching stems. Individual flowers are tiny with 5 petals that curl under, 5 yellow stamens, and a greenish yellow center.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound with 5 to 15 leaflets each, up to 18 inches long and 6 inches across, becoming smaller with fewer leaflets as they ascend the stem. Leaflets are oblong-elliptic and coarsely toothed, hairless, often cleft or with shallow lobes. Leaves near the base of the plant are long-stalked.

[photo of stem] Stems are hairless, grooved or ridged, and branched in the upper plant. First year plant is a rosette of compound leaves with flattened, grooved stalks.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of mature fruit] Fruit is flattened, oval, slightly ribbed, about ¼ inch long that ripens to brown and splits into 2 seeds. The ribs are slightly winged which help it float to new locations via water or wind.


This obnoxious weed was first widely seen throughout SE Minnesota, choking roadsides, but has now spread north and west rapidly, typically following transportation corridors as many weeds do. The MN Department of Transportation tries to impliment and maintain cooperative weed managment programs but once more - so much to do, so little money. Wild Parnsip is on the top weed list for Ramsey County, but without a statewide program to eradicate it they don't stand much of a chance. Wild Parsnip may be mistaken for the native Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), which has smaller clusters (3 inches or less across) of brighter yellow flowers and leaves compound in 3s.

A serious note on this plant: it contains furocoumarins which can make skin sensitive to light, a condition known as phytophotodermatitis, causing severe burns and blisters. A good article showing the effects is at Rubber gloves, long sleeves and long pants should be worn if hand-pulling this pest plant.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Mower and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Mower, Winona and Cass counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: john - stearns and todd counties
on: 2011-06-21 11:10:22

Stearns county along # 94 and todd county- along highway 11, highway 27 and highway 2. I have seen much of these plants spread in the past couple years- I've recently sprayed/pulled out as much as I could on my land and the neighbors land; listen to the directions offered...use the protective clothing. I don't believe cutting them as they seed kills them- like thistle, I believe the energy stored is still used in the plant to produce the seeds to a mature state in which they will continue to reproduce the following year.

Posted by: Diane - Zumbro Falls
on: 2011-07-01 15:19:00

Prevalent in ditches leading up to the Zumbro Falls Woods SNA...

Posted by: Pam - Douglas County
on: 2012-09-18 12:23:30

We found these in our roadside ditches about two years ago. We are in SW Douglas County very near Pope Cty. Dug and pulled them but they had already spread across the road so hard to control. Will a good broadleaf spray kill them?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-09-18 12:49:53

I suggest starting here for info on various control methods: Midwest Invasive Plant Network.

Posted by: Julie - Duluth, MN
on: 2013-06-25 07:43:06

I found a few rosettes coming up in my flower garden in summer 2012. I weeded them out because I didn't know what they were. This summer I let one plant develop to flowering so that I could identify it. I will weed them out with more vigor now that I realize that this is a noxious invader.

Posted by: Rose - Cottonwood County
on: 2015-05-20 17:46:48

This plant is becoming more and more of a problem. There are some large areas of it around the town of Windom. We just recently found some first year rosettes in our prairie; we will be making every effort to keep it from becoming established.

Posted by: Richelle - Southwest Minneapolis - Lake Harriet
on: 2016-06-18 11:37:36

I think I just got a this on my hands as it looks like the huge blisters that all the pictures show. I am not sure at all where I got it as I didn't notice any strange plants in my little garden of flowers.

Posted by: Donna - Cokato
on: 2016-06-25 12:45:14

Meeker county along HWY 15 south between Dassel and Hutchinson. Meeker county is loaded with it!

Posted by: ACMG - New Ulm, Brown County
on: 2016-07-01 00:20:26

This is all over the bike trail in New Ulm as well as in roadside ditches.

Posted by: Patricia - Saint Paul
on: 2016-07-06 21:07:44

Wild parsnip was in practically all of the roadside ditches between Rochester and Lanesboro as of July, 2016. Seems to have choked out much else. I am wondering whether planting parsnip in my vegetable gardens will hasten the spread of wild parsnip.

Posted by: Ann - Becker County
on: 2016-07-06 21:13:38

I believe there are several clusters along county road 150. I took pictures and the leaves match.

Posted by: Sue R - Belle Creek Twp, Goodhue County
on: 2017-06-07 00:43:54

I have at least 6 isolated plants throughout my meadows. I did not notice these last year. One plant already has a flower head.

Posted by: Jean E - Pelland and International Falls, MN
on: 2017-07-01 12:37:43

The wild parsnip is very thick along roadside ditches of Highway 11 and 71 by Pelland going east to International Falls. It has invaded the adjacent woodlands and area home lots along the Littlefork River. We need help to control it. Sprays might hurt pollinators. Mechanical means of control are safest for the environment.

Posted by: Susan R. - Eastern Wright county
on: 2017-07-11 23:39:40

New this year in a garden bed that had become weedy from non-use last season. Thought it was dill at first. Have not seen this plant in surrounding fields or ditches.

Posted by: Elizabeth - Douglas County/Lake Osakis
on: 2017-08-02 23:10:12

Found several plants (3-5 ft high) along gravel road and ditch. These were not present last summer.

Posted by: Glenn H - Faribault
on: 2017-09-07 11:13:49

I noted that many seed heads appear to have lost their seeds by the end of the first week in September. Do the plants just drop their seeds or birds in taking the seeds and promoting their distribution. The plants appear to spread quickly through a meadow. Do birds facilitate seed distribution?

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