American Cow Parsnip

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Bird perched on the cross-stalks

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Heracleum maximum

Other names: Indian celery, Indian rhubarb, pushki (from Russian, commonly used in Alaska)

Family: Apiaceae (Carrot Family)

Range: Canada and the US, except the Gulf Coast

Native: Native

Native Habitat: Rivers and fields, stream and lake shore, man-made sites

Bloom Time: February – September


I normally try to find plants in multiple locations before I publish a write up – but I only know of one place to find this plant – at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, ME. Most people go to the park for the beach, but I like walking up on the meadow you can access at the very far right hand (if you face the water) side of the beach. If you wander along a bit, you’ll come to a path on the right that leads down to a pebble beach. There’s a stand of cow parsnip growing right at the end of the meadow. I usually see them blooming on the summer solstice walk I try to do there if I’m home on the solstice.

What I love about this plant is how large and sturdy it is – I’ve seen birds perched on it numerous times. That said, it’s usually knocked completely down by August.
This is the only member of the Heracleum genus native to North America. The genus does refer to Hercules, in a reference to their tall height. The plant can grow up to ten feet, and is the largest plant in this family.

Native Americans ate the leaf and flower stalks.

The leaves contain a chemical that’s photosensitive, so some people develop a rash if gathering the plant in bright sunlight.

Locations in Photos:

Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth, ME



USDA Plant Profile

Pacific Northwest Wildflowers


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Gone by in July