T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Pastinaca sativa (Wild Parsnip)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Eudicots
(Unranked): Asterids 
Order: Apiales 
Family: Apiaceae 
Genus: Pastinaca 
Species: P. sativa 
Binomial name: Pastinaca sativa
Common names: WildParsnip

Wild parsnip is a member of the Umbelliferae (parsnip) family and is related to the carrot. It is a strong smelling biennial.  It has a tough, creamy white root, tapering somewhat from the crown, from which arises the erect stem, 30-60 cm high. The leaf-stalks are about 20 cm long, the leaves divided into several pairs of leaflets, each 2-5 cm long, and up to 2cm wide. All the leaflets are finely toothed at their margins and softly hairy, especially on the underside.
Stems are hollow and also have grooves up the sides.
The small yellow flowers are yellow and in umbels (clusters) at the ends of the stems, similar to the carrot and parsley plants. The flowers of the cultivated parsnip are a deeper yellow colour than those of the wild plant. It reproduces from seed.
Some parts of wild parsnip are poisonous and touching it can irritate skin. This is due to the xanthotoxin the plant contains. This reaction is a photodermatitis. Fine dust from weed-eating has caused rashes on exposed skin. The Native Americans used a tea made from the roots to treat female disorders and sharp pains.