Common Names

This plant is also known as the hemlock water-parsnip.

Description

The water parsnip is an erect, stout, branched perennial herb from two to six feet high. The lower leaves are long-stalked and the uppermost are nearly sessile. Sometimes a few of the lower leaves are submersed and finely dissected, but in general the leaflets are undivided, one and one-half to five inches long, narrow, sharply pointed and saw-edged. The umbels and umbellets of small white flowers are subtended by numerous narrow bracts. The fruit is oval and prominently ridged. It is in bloom from July to October.

Distribution

The water parsnip is a native of Canada. It is common in low, marshy land, swamps, and on muddy banks, across the continent.

Poisonous Properties

This plant has long been held as suspicious and it has been reported as "antiscorbutic, diuretic and poisonous" by Hyams of North Carolina. Pammel says it has been reported as poisonous from several different sources. As far. as is known the toxic principles have not been investigated, but there is no doubt that it is poisonous.

One of our correspondents in Ontario recently lost several head of cattle from eating water parsnip. In writing of the effect of this plant upon his cows, he says: "It seemed to affect the kidneys and back. First their water was red, then turned black as ink. They seemed to dry up. They did not bloat at all. Their milk dried up the first day." A similar case was reported from Saskatchewan.

Plate XXX.

Water Parsnip.

Photo - F. Fyles.

Water Parsnip.