H. maximum, also called H. sphondylium ssp. montanum (cow parsnip)

The cow parsnip, a giant among wildflowers, rises to a height of 3 to 8 feet and looks like an unlikely cross between a maple tree and a parsnip. It is found in moist, sunny or partially shaded places along creeks and streams from Labrador to Alaska, south to Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and New Mexico. Cow parsnip is a perennial with coarse, deeply lobed leaves and towering flower stalks that, in midsummer, bear 6- to 10-inch flat-topped clusters made up of numerous tiny white flowers. Touching the foliage causes skin rashes or welts that are aggravated by exposure to direct sunlight.

HOW TO GROW. Cow parsnip grows best in a Wetland environment but adapts easily to any moist, rich soil. It thrives in sun or partial shade if it is supplied with plenty of moisture. Sow seeds as soon as they are ripe in the fall, or propagate new plants by dividing root clumps in the spring. Cow parsnip will grow with little attention and, if the flower clusters are not cut off before they go to seed, the plant will seed itself, establishing large colonies wherever it has sufficient dampness. It will do well in a bog garden or in damp, shady areas beside a stream.


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