Collected once in 1988 by a grassy roadside, Vancouver (Lomer 88-170 @ UBC), but extirpated in 1989.
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.
Illustration Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia
Present over the Summer
Source: The USDA
||Value / Class
Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
of field plots
species was recorded in:
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)|
Source: Klinkenberg 2013
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
To the casual observer, many members of the parsley family (Apiaceae) look similar. Many have white umbels of flowers and dissected leaves. Close inspection, however, shows noticeable differences in leaf shape (amount of dissection), flower (umbel) size, and habitat preferences. When identifying species in this family, habitat should be the first separator (wet or dry sites). In southwestern BC, cow parsnip is most easily confused with smaller plants of giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), but may be separated from that species by its generally smaller size, leaf shape (it sports 3 distinct leaflets), and fruit shape. It may also be mistaken for poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). However, poison hemlock is generally much smaller than giant hogweed, with fern-like leaves and smaller flower umbels. Cow parsnip may also be mistaken for other wet-loving members of the Apiaceae, so care should be taken in the identification
1. Leaflets 3; rays of umbel 15-30; fruits narrowed toward base; plants 1-3 m tall ...........H. maximum
1. Leaves ternately or pinnately divided, lateral segments pinnately lobed; rays of umbel 50-150; fruits blunt and rounded toward base; plants 1.5-4.5 m tall.............H. mantegazzianum
Source: Key provided by Fred Ganders, 2010
The native cow parsnip can be confused with the alien invasive, giant cow parsnip. Care should be taken with the identification.
USDA. 2010. Plant profile for Heracleum maximum. United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database. Available Online.