Heracleum lanatum

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Heracleum lanatum
Scientific classification
H. lanatum
Binomial name
Heracleum lanatum
  • Heracleum lanatum var. asiaticum Hiroe, H. dulce Fisch.

Heracleum lanatum (synonym: Heracleum lanatum var. asiaticum), commonly called cow parsnip,[2][3] is a flowering plant in the carrot family Apiaceae. Traditionally eaten as a green vegetable by native peoples throughout much of its range, it is also called Indian rhubarb or Indian celery.[3] In the book on Traditional Chinese Medicine, Heracleum lanatum and Heracleum lanatum var. asiaticum are called soft-hair cowparsnip and Asian cowparsnip, respectively.


According to The Plant List, Heracleum lanatum is an accepted name.[1] On the other hand, Heracleum lanatum is not recognized as an accepted name by either the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) or the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). According to both ITIS and NPGS, Heracleum lanatum is a synonym for Heracleum sphondylium subsp. montanum,[4][5] a name proposed by Brummitt in 1971.[6][7]

Besides Heracleum lanatum, various scientific names have been attributed to this species,[2] including:

  • Heracleum maximum
  • Heracleum montanum
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. lanatum
  • Heracleum sphondylium var. lanatum
  • Heracleum sphondylium subsp. montanum

In particular, the names Heracleum lanatum and Heracleum maximum usually refer to the same plant species.

Native range[edit]

Heracleum lanatum is the only species of the genus Heracleum that is native to North America, ranging from the Aleutian Islands and Alaska in the far northwest to Newfoundland on the east coast, extending south as far as California, New Mexico, Kansas, Ohio, and Georgia. The plant is also found in Siberia, East Asia, and the Kuril Islands.[2][3][8][9]


The native peoples of northwestern North America sought out cow parsnip in the early spring, often traveling long distances (50 miles or more) to find the succulent plant shoots.[3] The young stems and leafstalks were peeled and usually eaten raw. In terms of taste, texture, and nutrients, the peeled stalks resembled celery, which gives rise to the common name "Indian celery".

The native peoples were well aware of the toxic effects of cow parsnip. They knew that if the outer skin were not removed, one would get an “itchy mouth.” Pregnant women were warned not to eat the flower bud stalks, otherwise their newborn baby might lose its breath when it cried and choke.

At least seven native groups in North America used the plant as a dermatological aid.[3] A poultice prepared from the roots of cow parsnip was applied to swellings, especially of the feet.

Heracleum lanatum is widely recognized as a valuable pasture plant for cows, sheep, and goats. It is also known to be important in the diets of numerous wild animals, especially bears, both grizzly bears and black bears.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Heracleum lanatum Michx". The Plant List, Version 1.1. 2013. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Campbell, Robert B. (1991). "Ecology of Heracleum lanatum Michx. (cow parsnip) communities in northwestern Montana". Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. The University of Montana: Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kuhnlein, Harriet V.; Turner, Nancy J. (1986). "Cow-Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum Michx.): An Indigenous Vegetable of Native People of Northwestern North America" (PDF). J. Ethnobiol. 6 (2): 309–324.
  4. ^ "Heracleum sphondylium ssp. montanum (Schleich. ex Gaudin) Briq". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  5. ^ "Taxon: Heracleum sphondylium L. subsp. montanum (Schleich. ex Gaudin) Briq". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  6. ^ Brummitt, R. K. (1971). "Relationship of Heracleum lanatum Michx. of North America to H. sphondylium of Europe". Rhodora. 73 (796): 578–584. JSTOR 23311734.
  7. ^ Page, N. A.; Wall, R. E.; Darbyshire, S. J.; Mulligan, G. A. (2006). "The Biology of Invasive Alien Plants in Canada. 4. Heracleum mantegazzianum Sommier & Levier". Can. J. Plant Sci. 86 (2): 569–589. doi:10.4141/P05-158.
  8. ^ "Heracleum lanatum Michx". Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  9. ^ "Heracleum lanatum: Cow Parsnip". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved September 25, 2018.