Cow-parsnip
Heracleum maximum Bartr.
Family: Apiaceae, Parsley
Genus: Heracleum
Synonyms: Heracleum lanatum
Other names: hogweed
Nomenclature: maximum = very large
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
No medicinal data
Description

General: plant height: 100-250 cm. Growth habit: Robust perennial from a stout taproot or cluster of fibrous roots, strong-smelling. Stems: erect, single, hairy, hollow.

Leaves: alternate, 10-30 cm wide, hairy at least on lower surface, with 3 stalked, toothed leaflets that are palmately lobed. Upper leaf stalks have inflated sheaths at base.

Flowers: small, white, with deeply lobed petals which are 5-7 mm long, larger at edge of umbels. Umbel clusters flat-topped, 10-30 cm wide, several from stem tops and upper leaf axils, each with 15-30 rays. Bracts 5-10, narrow, 0.5-2 cm long, soon falling off. June-July.

Fruits: flattened, ovate to cordate, 7-12 mm long and 5-9 mm wide, with ribs and 2 broad wings.


Distribution

Stream banks and moist low ground, from the lowlands to moderate elevations in the mountains in w. and c. parts of MT, also from AK to NM.
Edible Uses

Cow parsnip was widely used by native people as a vegetable. Young stems were peeled, to remove the strong-smelling outer skin, and the mild, sweet inner stem was eaten raw or boiled. Unpeeled stems were sometimes roasted in hot coals. The roots were also used as a cooked vegetable, like parsnip. Toy flutes and whistles can be made from the dry, hollow stems, but these may irritate the lips. Caution: people with sensitive skin may react to the furanocoumarins in cow-parsnip, which can cause dark blotches, rashes and even blisters when contact with the plant is accompanied by exposure to sunlight.


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