Wild Parsnip, (Pastinaca sativa), is a biennial/perennial herb native to Eurasia. It is noxious and highly invasive. It was introduced to the US in the 1600s.


Wild parsnip is very common throughout North America. Large populations in New York are found in the Lower Hudson Valley, Catskills, and the southern portion of the Adirondacks.


Contact with the plant can lead to serious skin irritation. The plant contains psoralens (chemicals that make skin sensitive to sunlight) which cause burn-like lesions within 24 hours after exposure. Wild parsnip displaces native plants and forms large monocultures.


During the first one to two years, wild parsnip plants will be in the form of a low- laying rosette. Eventually a hollow grooved flower stalk will rise about 2-5 feet high growing yellow umble shaped flowers in the late summer.  Leaves resemble the leaves of celery and have two to five sharply toothed paired leaflets that grow along the stem.  Stems are yellowish-green in color with vertical grooves (no red/purple blotches or hairs) and can grow up to 5 ft. tall. Flowers resemble Queen Anne’s lace but are a greenish-yellow color. The flat-topped cluster (umbel) can grow 2-6 inches in diameter. Wild parsnip blooms from late June to July. Seeds mature by early July. Plants die after producing seeds. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to four years.