Random Plant: Water parsnip

Water parsnip (Sium suave, Apiaceae) photographed 09/30/2012 near Blissfield, Michigan.

Found in wet areas throughout North America, water parsnip (Sium suave, Apiaceae) is a bit more intriguing than its plain appearance suggests. Although the umbels of tiny white flowers are almost indistinguishable from many other plants in the carrot family, the leaves are more interesting. Foliage details are useful diagnostic features in this family, but this plant exhibits significant foliar variation depending on growing conditions.

Water parsnip (Sium suave, Apiaceae) photographed 09/30/2012 near Blissfield, Michigan.

The once-compound leaves can be very thin and feathery when grown in water, very broad and elliptic near the base of the plant on land, or lanceolate and serrate as I found on this individual. It was growing in moist silty soil a few feet from the edge of the River Raisin here in southeast Michigan.

Water parsnip (Sium suave, Apiaceae) photographed 09/30/2012 near Blissfield, Michigan.

Like its relative Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota, Apiaceae) this plant is edible, and the root may present a carrot-like flavor. Eating it without certain identification, however, can be a fatal endeavor. Water parsnip bears a strong resemblance to stiff cowbane (Oxypolis rigidior, Apiaceae) and water hemlock (Cicuta maculata, Apiaceae), two of the most deadly poisonous plants in North America. These plants are very similar in appearance and growing conditions, making positive identification difficult.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Random Plant and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Random Plant: Water parsnip

  1. heartflow2012 says:

    I love your beautiful photos! Thank you very much!

    Like

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