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

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Brian Klinkenberg     (Photo ID #14273)


E-Flora BC Static Map

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

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.


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

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


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)
1157 0 2750
Slope Gradient (%)
15 -5 190

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

140 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
4 1 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# 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)

Habitat and 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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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 Notes

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


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 Unpublished material.

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