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Is Cow Parsnip Dangerous? [Beneficial Or Harmful]

Although some parts of Cow Parsnip are edible, it can be equally irritating and dangerous to you and your surroundings due to its toxic traits.

Generally, Cow Parsnip is dangerous to humans, plants, and animals due to its crowding ability and the toxic chemical furanocoumarin. However, the young shoots, leaves, and roots are edible to humans but can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach upset in animals.

Cow Parsnip is a biennial weed with large white flowers blooming in summer. And it is often confused with Cow Parsley and Giant Hogweed due to its similar flower color.

So, go through this entire article to know whether this plant is dangerous or beneficial for you and your surroundings.

Is Cow Parsnip Invasive?

Cow Parsnip is a fast-growing weed native to North America, and you can find this plant everywhere in the United States except the South.

Although this growth offensive weed can be crowdy quickly, it’s not an invasive plant. But it can still intrude on other plants on your lawn.

White flowers of Cow parsnips
Cow Parsnips are dangerous to other plants in your lawn as they spread quickly with their flowers, seeds, and roots.

Moreover, Cow Parsnip also contains a nasty odor due to its allelopathic properties that may harm other plants.

Also, this plant spreads very quickly as pollination can be highly successful through wind, water, and other mediums.

Thus, due to the high spreading ability with the help of seeds and roots, it’s better to inspect it carefully before it crowds your whole lawn.

Is Cow Parsnip Edible?

Cow Parsnip is from the Umbiliferae family, and you can also identify it as a cousin of carrots due to its flavorful parts.

Having a flavor similar to celery, different parts of this plant, like leaves, shoots, and roots, are edible to humans.

However, the roots and old shoots have much fiber content requiring hours of cooking before you consume them.

The young shoots and leaves taste tender and delicious whether you eat them as soup, salads, or raw.

Although the plant has some benefits for humans, Cow Parsnip is equally dangerous to pets like dogs, cats, and rabbits.

When your pets eat this plant out of curiosity or accidentally, they may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach upset.

Additionally, the harmful chemical furanocoumarin in the sap causes rashes, blisters, and skin irritation in humans and animals.

Therefore, always keep your pets chained in areas crowded with Cow Parsnip and rush them to the veterinarian if you notice any symptoms.

Also, when you find yourself or your pets in touch with this plant, wash that skin area with soap and water properly.

In case of emergency due to accidental consumption of this plant by your pets, contact the following. 

Additionally, before consuming harmful plants like Cow Parsnips, you must be aware of their poisonous lookalikes, equally toxic to humans, dogs, and horses.

Know more about the hot debate running along the plant community about the similarities and differences between Cow Parsnip vs. Water Hemlock.

How To Get Rid Of Cow Parsnip?

It’s better not to plant dangerous Cow Parsnip if you find it offending and crowdy with many disadvantages to other plants than some benefits.

However, if you have already planted it and the invasion with an upsetting bad smell is making you get rid of it, here are some tips.

  • It’s easy to tug the plant out when they are young, as young shoots are soft and easy to remove.
  • Cut down the mature plants as it prevents them from flowering and setting seeds.
  • Deadhead the flowers before they mature and set seeds.
  • Apply suitable herbicides to kill the plant when they are crowded.
  • Never compost from Cow Parsnip, as its chemical may harm other plants.
  • If all these methods fail, consult a professional to control the plant’s spread.

Before harvesting or pulling off Cow Parsnips, wear gloves and full-sleeved clothes to protect yourself from their toxic sap.

From Editorial Team

Cow Parsnip Vs. Wild Parsnip

Despite the similar names, Cow Parsnip and wild parsnip are different plants containing similar chemical furanocoumarin on sap.

However, the shoots and leaves of Wild Parsnips contain a bitter flavor, unlike the sweet celery flavor of Cow Parsnips.

Moreover, Cow Parsnip bears white flowers, whereas Wild Parsnip’s blooms are yellow. But the color may fade as the flower matures.