Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Cow-parsnip - Heracleum maximum   W. Bartram
Members of Apiaceae:
Members of Heracleum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
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AuthorW. Bartram
DistributionThroughout the Mountains; apparently not present into Piedmont foothills.

This is a widespread Northern species, ranging south to NJ, PA, MO, and CA, and down the Appalachians to northern GA.
AbundanceInfrequent to fairly common, from higher elevations to lower ones in river valleys. Somewhat less numerous in the far southwestern counties.
HabitatThis species occurs in rich, often moist soil, though it is not a strict wetland plant. It is often found in wet meadows, along creek banks and riversides, and other lowlands; however, it also grow in openings and edges of rich upland forests, and even around grassy balds (with seepage).
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits from July to August.
IdentificationThis is about as robust as any native herbaceous species -- perhaps along with Common Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)-- in the state. It has a thick and hollow stem (to 2" wide), grows to about 6-7' tall or more, has a rank smell, and has a woolly or very hairy stem. The scattered, alternate stem leaves are very large (1' long or more), divided into 3 large maple-leaf segments, each about 6" across. The several umbels, one at the summit and a few from leaf axils, are compound, with 15-30 umbellets, each on long rays, and with many small white flowers comprising each of these small umbellets. The entire umbel can be 5-6" across. Though not common, when you spot this monster of an herb, it should be obvious by its large maple-leaf leaflets, thick and hispid stem, and large umbels.
Taxonomic CommentsMany references name or named this species as H. lanatum.

Other Common Name(s)Common Cow-parsnip, Indian Celery
State RankS3
Global RankG5
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