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Toxic parts

Many members of this genus, including this species[1], contain furanocoumarins. These have carcinogenic, mutagenic and phototoxic properties. The fresh foliage can cause dermatitis[2]. If the juice and hairs of the outer skin are left on the face and mouth, they can cause blisters[3]. This effect is especially prevalent for people with fair complexions[4].

Edible uses


Root - cooked[5][6][7][8]. Tastes like a swede[9][10]. Used like potatoes, though it is considered to be poisonous by some writers[11].

The peeled stem can be eaten raw but is best cooked[5][12][10]. The unpeeled stem can be used when young, or just the inner tissue of older stems can be used, before the plants flower[7][8]. For people not used to the flavour, they are best cooked in two changes of water when they make a tasty celery-like vegetable[11]. Another report says that, despite the strong odour of the leaves and outer skin, the peeled young stems are mild and sweet, resembling celery in flavour[4]. The stems cannot be eaten raw in large quantities because they give a burning sensation in the mouth[13]. The stems are highly nutritious, containing up to 18% protein[11]. Leaves and young shoots - raw or cooked[14][7][8][15]. Cooked as greens or added to salads[10]. Young flowers[6][12][16]. No further details. The dried seeds are used as a flavouring for soups, stews and potato salads[7][10].

The dried base of the plant and ashes from the burnt leaves are used as a salt substitute[10].

Unknown part



Material uses

Whistles, flutes, straws etc can be made from the hollow stems[17][13].

The leaves are used as a covering for baskets of fruit etc[17]. A yellow dye is obtained from the roots[13].

An infusion of the blossoms, rubbed on the body, repels flies and mosquitoes[13].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Cow parsnip was widely employed medicinally by a large number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints, but especially as a poultice on bruises, sores etc[13]. It is little used in modern herbalism, though perhaps it merits further investigation.

All parts of the plant are antirheumatic, antispasmodic, carminative, febrifuge, odontalgic and stimulant[2][8][9][18][13]. The leaves are tonic[13]. They have been used in the treatment of colds[13]. A soothing drink made from the leaves is used to treat sore throats[13]. A poultice of the heated leaves has been applied to minor cuts, sore muscles etc[13]. An infusion of the fresh young stems has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea[13]. It has also been used as a wash to remove warts[13]. The plant has been used in the treatment of epilepsy[11]. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of indigestion, colds, stomach cramps, rheumatism, sore throats, TB etc[19][13]. Externally, the root is used as a poultice on sores, bruises, swellings, boils, rheumatic joints, VD scabs etc, whilst a bit of root has been held on an aching tooth to reduce the pain[19][13]. The root can be crushed, mixed with water and used as an antidandruff hair wash[13]. The root contains psoralen, which is being investigated for its use in the treatment of psoriasis, leukaemia and AIDS[19].

The seed has been used to treat severe headaches[13].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - sow mid to late spring or early autumn in situ. Division in autumn.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Heracleum sphondylium montanum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Succeeds in any ordinary garden soil, doing best in moist soils or deep woodland[20][14][21].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Heracleum sphondylium montanum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Heracleum sphondylium montanum.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Heracleum sphondylium montanum
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
permanent shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


    1. ? Frohne. D. and Pf?nder. J. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. Wolfe ISBN 0723408394 (1984-00-00)
    2. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    3. ? Craighead. J., Craighead. F. and Davis. R. A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers The Riverside Press ISBN 63-7093 (1963-00-00)
    4. ? Turner. N. J. Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples UBC Press. Vancouver. ISBN 0-7748-0533-1 (1995-00-00)
    5. ? Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    6. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    7. ? Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. University of New Mexico Press ISBN 0-8623-0343-9 (1967-00-00)
    8. ? Sweet. M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West. Naturegraph Co. ISBN 0-911010-54-8 (1962-00-00)
    9. ? Arnberger. L. P. Flowers of the Southwest Mountains. Southwestern Monuments Ass. (1968-00-00)
    10. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    11. ? Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    12. ? Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    13. ? 13.0013.0113.0213.0313.0413.0513.0613.0713.0813.0913.1013.1113.1213.1313.1413.1513.1613.1713.18 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
    14. ? Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds. Pivot Health (1973-00-00)
    15. ? 15.015.1 Gunther. E. Ethnobotany of Western Washington. University of Washington Press ISBN 0-295-95258-X (1981-00-00)
    16. ? 16.016.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
    17. ? Turner. N. J. Plants in British Columbian Indian Technology. British Columbia Provincial Museum ISBN 0-7718-8117-7 (1979-00-00)
    18. ? 18.018.1 Schofield. J. J. Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest. ()
    19. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    20. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    21. ? Hitchcock. C. L. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press (1955-00-00)
    22. ? Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named PFAFimport-71
    23. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)

    Facts about "Heracleum sphondylium montanum"RDF feed
    Article is incompleteYes +
    Article requires citationsNo +
    Article requires cleanupYes +
    Belongs to familyUmbelliferae +
    Belongs to genusHeracleum +
    Has binomial nameHeracleum sphondylium montanum +
    Has common nameCow Parsnip +
    Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
    Has edible partUnknown part +, Flowers +, Leaves +, Root + and Stem +
    Has edible useCondiment +, Unknown use + and Salt +
    Has fertility typeSelf fertile + and Insects +
    Has flowers of typeHermaphrodite +
    Has hardiness zone5 +
    Has lifecycle typePerennial +
    Has material partUnknown part +
    Has material useDye +, Musical +, Packing +, Repellent + and Straw +
    Has mature height2.4 +
    Has medicinal partUnknown part +
    Has medicinal useAntidandruff +, Antirheumatic +, Antispasmodic +, Carminative +, Febrifuge +, Odontalgic +, Stimulant +, TB + and Tonic +
    Has search nameheracleum sphondylium montanum + and cow parsnip +
    Has shade tolerancePermanent shade +
    Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
    Has soil texture preferenceSandy +, Loamy + and Clay +
    Has sun preferenceFull sun +
    Has taxonomic rankSpecies +
    Has taxonomy nameHeracleum sphondylium montanum +
    Has water requirementsmoderate +
    Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
    PFAF cultivation notes migratedNo +
    PFAF edible use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF material use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF medicinal use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF propagation notes migratedNo +
    PFAF toxicity notes migratedNo +
    Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
    Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +
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