E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Heracleum maximum W. Bartram
cow-parsnip (common cowparsnip)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Brian Klinkenberg  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #14273)

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Distribution of Heracleum maximum
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Collected once in 1988 by a grassy roadside, Vancouver (Lomer 88-170 @ UBC), but extirpated in 1989.

Species Information

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Perennial. Stem 1-3 m tall, hairs woolly.
Leaves with widely sheathing petioles 10-40 cm long, upper sheaths enlarged, bladeless, blade 20-50 cm wide, round to kidney-shaped, leaflets 3, 10-40 cm wide, ovate to round, lobed or toothed, usually hairy.
Inflorescence usually 10-20 cm in diameter, woolly or long-hairy, peduncle 5-20 cm long, involucre bracts 5-10, deciduous, narrow, 5-20 mm long, involucel bractlets similar to involucre bracts, rays 15-30, 5-10 cm long. Petals obovate, white.
Fruit 8-12 mm long, obovate to heart-shaped, narrowed toward base, flat, winged, glabrous or hairy.

Account Author::  Fred Ganders, 2010.

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Habitat wet to moist areas from the lowland to the alpine zone. Common throughout BC; amphiberingian, E to NF and S to GA, NM and CA; E. Asia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

The native cow parsnip can be confused with the alien invasive, giant cow parsnip. Care should be taken with the identification.


Ecological Framework for Heracleum maximum

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 1157 2750
Slope Gradient (%) -5 15 190
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 140 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(15), BAFA(6), BG(6), BWBS(181), CDF(1), CMA(1), CWH(147), ESSF(955), ICH(286), IDF(90), IMA(3), MH(28), MS(180), PP(3), SBPS(26), SBS(586), SWB(44)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Heracleum lanatum Michx.
Heracleum sphondylium subsp. lanatum
Heracleum sphondylium subsp. montanum (Schleich. ex Gaudin) Briq.
Heracleum sphondylium var. lanatum (Michx.) Dorn

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

Ganders, Fred. 2010. Personal communication. Unpublished material.

USDA. 2010. Plant profile for Heracleum maximum. United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database. Available Online.

General References