Heracleum maximum - Cow Parnsip



General Perennial.[IFBC][E-flora][WildPNW] 3-10ft tall. Robust. Covered with long hairs.[WildPNW] Very Large.[PCBC2004]
Flowers "White, small; numerous, in a large, flat-topped, terminal umbrella-like cluster". [PCBC2004] "Umbels of flower heads often more than 10 in. across, flat."[WildPNW] Involucre bracts 5-10, deciduous, narrow, 5-20 mm long..."[Ganders][E-flora]
Fruits Aromatic, sunflower-seed-like. [PCBC2004] obvate to heart-shaped, narrowed toward base.[Ganders][E-flora]
Leaves Maple-like. Leaf blade divided palmately into 3 parts[WildPNW], each "10-40 cm long and wide, coarsely toothed and palmately lobed".[PCBC2004] Usually hairy.[Ganders][E-flora]
Stem 1-3m. tall, thick, hollow, and strongly ribbed. [HNW]
Root "Stout taproot or cluster of fleshy fibrous roots".[PCBC2004]
Properties "Strong pungent odour when mature." [PCBC2004] There is hot, yellow latex in the stem.[PDR]
Habitat Wet to moist areas.[E-flora] Robust plants of moist habitats, especially near the coast. [PWOBC] Sea level to subalpine elevation.[PCBC2004] Often along streams.[HNW]
Range Common throughout B.C.[E-flora] Widespread in North America.[Hitchcock&cronquist]
Status Native.[E-flora]
Similar Species "giant cow-parsnip (Heracleum mantegazzianum), also called giant hogweed), a huge (1.5-4.5 m tall) garden escapee that can cause acute phototoxicity." [PCBC2004] "In southwestern BC, cow parsnip is most easily confused with smaller plants of giant hogweed", "but may be separated from that species by its generally smaller size, leaf shape (it sports 3 distinct leaflets), and fruit shape." [E-flora]



Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Cow parsnip was widely employed medicinally by a large number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints, but especially as a poultice on bruises, sores etc[257]. It is little used in modern herbalism, though perhaps it merits further investigation." [PFAF]

The medicinal parts are the dried roots, the herb collected in the flowering season and dried, the fruit, the fresh herb and the whole fresh flowering plant.[PDR]


Food Use



Heracleum lanatum - Cow Parsnip
Stalks (Peeled) per 100g fresh weight [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Ash 0.6g, Water 95g, Vitamin A (RE) 7.5, and Thiamine <0.01mg [Turner, Kuhnlein]


Plant (All parts): "Antirheumatic, antispasmodic, carminative, febrifuge, odontalgic and stimulant[21, 94, 155, 172, 257]." [PFAF]

A mild expectorant - This has not been scientifically proven. "A phototoxic effect should be expected after administration." [PDR]

Allergenic, Anthelmintic, Antiseptic, Depurative, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Laxative, Mutagenic, phototoxic, Poison, Spasmogenic, Tonic. [HMH Duke]


Ascorbic Acid - 60mg per 100g of edible portion.(Keely et al.) [Norton KaigHaida]
Furocoumarins (0.5-0.6%): in particular bergaptene, isopimpinellin, pimpinellin, isobergaptene, sphondin [PDR] The furocoumarin methoxsalin is used in the treatment of psoriasis.[PDR]
Psoralen - In the root. It is being investigated for its use in the treatment of psoriasis, leukaemia and AIDS[222]. [PFAF]
Volatile oil: including those containing n-octylacetate [PDR]


"Succeeds in any ordinary garden soil, doing best in moist soils or deep woodland[1, 55, 60]."[PFAF]


Propagate by seed or root division and plant in a sunny location in moist soil. [Schofield] "Seed - sow mid to late spring or early autumn in situ. Division in autumn."[PFAF]

Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant Hogweed) - "A courser and taller species has escaped from cultivation and beecome established on the Olympic Peninsula."[HNW]


Page last modified on Thursday, July 25, 2019 5:28 AM