Poor parsnip. All it wants to do is be eaten. And it should be! It is loaded with nutrients, vitamins and cancer-fighting anti-oxidants….but its toxic sap just keeps grabbing all the headlines.
But wait a minute? What’s this? The only other yellow plant more maligned than wild parsnip is the ubiquitous goldenrod, Solidago canadensis. Believed to be the wild botanical culprit that causes our autumn sniffles and itchy eyes — but isn’t! that credit goes to ragweed — goldenrod is actually cultivated in Europe as an ornamental and used in decorative plantings alongside ornamentals (like grasses, sedum, Joe Pye weed as well as rudbeckias, asters and echinacea.)
Best to know the difference between the two — wild parsnip, as well as its relatives giant hogweed (uber toxic sap), dill, coriander, carrot, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, and others — are members of the Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae) family. They share the same flower-structure, which appears as a flat-topped umbel:
So be aware, but don’t be fearful.
After all, parsnips are yummy with your Thanksgiving dinner! Goldenrod, not so much.