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Heracleum maximum W. Bartram
Common cowparsnip, Cow Parsnip
Synonym(s): Heracleum lanatum, Heracleum sphondylium ssp. montanum, Heracleum sphondylium var. lanatum
USDA Symbol: HEMA80
This very tall plant has huge leaves and flat umbels of numerous tiny white flowers; stem is grooved, woolly, hollow, and stout.
This is the largest species of the carrot family in North America. The genus is named for Hercules, who is reputed to have used these plants for medicine. Early in each year, Native Americans peeled and ate the young sweet, aromatic leaf and flower stalks.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
, WY Canada: AB
, PE Native Distribution:
Most of North America from southern California to Georgia northward. Native Habitat:
Moist, partially shaded places, up to 9,000 (2,700 m) elevation.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Organic, Clay, Loam, Sandy
Birds. Use Other:
Indigenous people in the Northwest used the hollow stems to make deer calls. Warning:
People with sensitive skin often develop rashes when contact with cow-parsnip is followed by exposure to bright sunlight. It is best to gather this robust plant with gloves. (Kershaw). For food and medicinal uses do not confuse with water hemlock (Cicuta maculata
) which is poisonous. (Clough) Conspicuous Flowers:
Birds , Butterflies Larval Host:
Anise swallowtail butterfly.
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara, CANative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
Record Last Modified: 2013-10-29
Research By: TWC Staff