By Francisco Rodriguez, Conservation Trainee

For this hot week, the plant featured is cow parsnip. It is a perennial in the carrot family that can reach heights of up to 7'- 10' tall. Cow parsnip closely resembles the invasive giant hogweed. To tell the difference between these two species you can look at the stems as well as the leaves. Cow parsnip stems are deeply ridged and entirely green with soft, fuzzy hairs. Giant hogweed has reddish purple blotches and coarse hairs.  Giant hogweed can cause severe burns if touched, and cow parsnip may also cause rashes and burns, so best to enjoy these plants without touching.

Cow parsnip is a valuable pasture plant for cows, sheep, and goats. It is also known to be important in the diets of numerous wild animals including bears!

Each week during the growing season, the Engineering Division focuses in on a Plant of the Week to raise awareness of different plants in the field that benefit our environment. The Engineering crews in the field tasked with conservation share expert insight on these plants and their benefits each week in a creative way!

cow parsnip


This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Engineering and a link back to the original post.