Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
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Wild Flowers of Sleepy Hollow Lake
Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
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(Wild Parsnip - 01)  Wild parsnip is quite common in our area, but for some reason it eluded our identification for some time.  Wild parsnip are biennial plants which produce only basal leaves in the first year and these 2-6 inch wide terminal flower umbels atop a 2-5 foot high branching stem wildflower in the second year.



(Wild Parsnip - 02)  This photo gives us a look at a single wild parsnip umbel with its smaller branching "sub-umbels" that make up the flower head of tiny yellow flowers.




(Wild Parsnip - 02a)  In this photo we can see how each tiny wild parsnip flower grows at the end of a stem that is joined together with other flower stems at the end of one of the umbel branching stems, which in turn is joined together with others at the top of a larger plant stem.





(Wild Parsnip - 03)  Wild parsnip leaves grow alternately from the grooved stem and can be up to 18 inches long.  They are pinnately compound with coarse saw-toothed leaflets.





(Wild Parsnip - 04)  This is a patch of wild parsnip growing in a field.  They can also be found along roadsides and wet locations.  Wild parsnip are members of the carrot family, Apiaceae.




(Wild Parsnip - 05)  Although wild parsnip have an edible root, they should be avoided because they can easily be confused with poison hemlock, and because the plant juice causes skin irritations and blisters when exposed to sunlight.  This problem is most pronounced when the flowers are in bloom.





(Wild Parsnip - 06)  This is another photo of the wild parsnip leaves.





(Wild Parsnip - 07)  This photo focuses on the end of a wild parsnip leaf, the terminal leaflet, and a few pairs of parallel leaflets.





(Wild Parsnip - 07a)  The lower leaflets on the wild parsnip leaf are deeply lobed.  The leaf stem is grooved like that of the main plant stem.






(Wild Parsnip - 08)  Wild parsnip produce a relatively large number of seeds.  On this plant, each wild parsnip flower seems to have produced a seed, which is fairly typical.




(Wild Parsnip - 08a)  This is a close-up of the wild parsnip seeds and a clue to what we believe is this wildflower's method of pollination.  We have never seen bees on the wild parsnip flowers.







(Wild Parsnip - 09)  These wild parsnip flowers are just beginning to open.





(Wild Parsnip - 09a)  This is a close-up of some of the newly opening wild parsnip flowers.  When they first begin to open the five petals are tightly rolled up against the ovary which is topped by the beginning of the pistil, or at least the stigma.  Between each rolled up petal is one of the five stamens.  The flowers send forth their stamens even before the petals completely unroll.





(Wild Parsnip - 10)  This is another wild parsnip that was growing along the side of the road.





(Wild Parsnip - 11)  This is a wild parsnip that is growing up among other plants along the side of the road.







(Wild Parsnip - 12)  This is a look at the lower portion of a wild parsnip with a new flower stem growing from a leaf axil.






(Wild Parsnip - 13)  We have not been able to confirm this in the literature, but we believe that wild parsnip may be pollinated by ants.





(Wild Parsnip - 13a)  This is a close up look at one of the ants on the wild parsnip flowers.





(Wild Parsnip - 13b)  This is another ant that came to dine at the "wild parsnip restaurant."






(Wild Parsnip - 14)  These ants were on another wild parsnip.







(Wild Parsnip - 15)  In this photo, we see the wild parsnip beginning to go to seed.





(Wild Parsnip - 15a)  Shortly after the wild parsnip flowers are fertilized, the ovaries begin to swell and the petals fall off.







(Wild Parsnip - 16)  This is a patch of wild parsnip growing along the roadside.





(Wild Parsnip - 17)  These young wild parsnips are "competing" with wild grapes for the sunny places along the side of the road.





(Wild Parsnip - 18)  Plants do not have a brain or nervous system, but they are photo sensitive, which means they react to light.  The wild parsnip, wild grapes and other plants growing along the side of the road all "seek" the top spot.




(Wild Parsnip - 18a)  We are not completely sure what triggers the growth mechanism of plants, but from our observations with these wild parsnips and grapes, and other plants, it appears that when a plant begins to get over-shadowed, it seems to grow faster.  The wild parsnip grows above the grapes, and the grapes climb on top of the wild parsnips to get the maximum amount of sunlight.  And even though the wild parsnip is still quite short, it begins to bloom before the other non competing wild parsnips.  We have also observed this same response with other wild flowers that grow along the side of the road where they repeatedly get mowed down, as their flowers are almost on the ground.


(Wild Parsnip - 19)  This is another look at the "low-blooming" wild parsnip that's growing along the side of the road.





(Wild Parsnip - 20)  By the time Fall rolls around, both the wild parsnip and the grapes have survived.  To the right of center, near the top of the photo, clusters of grapes can be seen growing beneath the leaves.




(Wild Parsnip - 20a)  Over the top of the wild parsnip, we can see the grape clusters.








(Wild Parsnip - 21)  This side view of a wild parsnip, growing up through the gravel shoulder of the road, gives us a good look at the shape of the plant.




(Wild Parsnip - 22)  This is another look at the wild parsnip.






(Wild Parsnip - 23)  In this photo, we can observe the swollen, flat-shaped buds of the wild parsnip.





(Wild Parsnip - 23a)  In this photo we have a closer look at the buds of the wild parsnip.






(Wild Parsnip - 24)  These wild parsnip flowers are beginning to open.






(Wild Parsnip - 24a)  In this photo, we have a closer look at some of the newly opening wild parsnip flowers.





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