Wild Parsnip Flowers Yellow in Umbels

Once you see what a dill weed plant looks like in flower, you’ll easily recognize other related plants as being members of the same family because of their flowering umbels.

The Carrot Family, Apiaceae, may also be referred to as the Umbelliferae or parsley family which contains several edible plants.

The flowers of Carrot Family members grow in umbels or compound umbels. Umbels contain groups of tiny flowers that have their flower stems emanating from a single point.

Wild parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, is a Carrot Family member that is not native to America that also flowers in umbels. It can be found growing tall at the edges of fields and on the side of the road in sunny locations. It will grow 2 to 5 feet tall and is found throughout the eastern U.S. in waste places, according to Peterson’s Wildflowers Field Guide.

Wild parsnips growing at the edge of a corn field where it meets a country road.
Wild parsnips growing at the edge of a corn field where it meets a country road.

The foliage of this alien plant is made up of compound leaves attached alternately to a thick, ridged main stem.

Leaflets number 5 to 15 and are sessile or without stems of their own.

Compound leaves of Wild Parsnip have noticeably toothed leaflets.
Compound leaves of Wild Parsnip have noticeably toothed leaflets.
Flowering umbel of Wild Parsnip.
Flowering umbel of Wild Parsnip. Photos taken 20 June 2014.
Wild parsnip flowers mature into large seeds that are held in umbels.
Wild parsnip flowers mature into large seeds that are held in umbels.

Apiaceae contains both edible and toxic plants. Several garden plants, like dill, parsley, cilantro, carrot and parsnips are recognizable as members of this family. The most notable toxic plant in the family is poison hemlock.

Caution: The foliage of parsnips may cause irritation of skin when wet. Simply brushing up against the foliage when it’s wet can cause dermatitis in some people and horrible blisters in others. If you’ve planted parsnips in your garden, weed the area after the morning dew is gone to avoid that itchy-scratchy feeling. If you’re investigating this roadside weed, take care!

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