Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mystery of the Month - June

This bright yellow flower has a look-alike. Did you know that distinguishing between the two could be the difference between having a plant-based skin burn and simply enjoying a native Minnesota plant?

By Carole Gernes, Ramsey County Cooperative Weed Management Area (RCCWMA)

Wild Parsnip in bloom.  Photo by K. Chayka (

Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is an invasive plant that Ramsey County hopes to eliminate. Touching wild parsnip, a Minnesota Noxious Weed, may cause severe skin burns. An escaped garden plant, its seeds are spread by sticking to feet, tires and mowers. Parsnip grows close to the ground the first year and up to four feet tall when flowering. Umbrella shaped flower heads are two to 10 inches wide, containing many tiny yellow flowers. Each parsnip leaf is feather-shaped, with many large-toothed leaflets growing from a central vein.

Wild Parsnip is often confused with the MN native plant, Golden Alexanders.  These drawings can help you distinguish.
Wild parsnip flowers may be confused with golden Alexanders, a beneficial native plant. Golden Alexander leaves have small teeth along the edge and an over-all palm-shaped or triangular form. Parsnip usually starts blooming in mid to late June. Golden Alexanders blooms earlier in the spring. Please do not remove any suspect plants! If you suspect a plant is parsnip, and it is yellow after June 20th, please report its location to the RCCWMA by emailing or calling 651-792-7977.

Successful removal may take several years.  Contact RCCWMA for removal advice and cost share information.

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