Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Pushki, Alaskan Cow Parsnip
Heracleum maximum

Family: Apiaceae (ay-pee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Heracleum (hair-uh-KLEE-um) (Info)
Species: maximum (MAKS-ih-mum) (Info)

Synonym:Heracleum lanatum
Synonym:Heracleum sphondylium subsp. montanum
Synonym:Heracleum sphondylium var. lanatum

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

4 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Pale Pink
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds

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By Weezingreens
Thumbnail #1 of Heracleum maximum by Weezingreens

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Thumbnail #7 of Heracleum maximum by Weezingreens

There are a total of 25 photos.
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2 positives
1 neutral
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive plant_it On May 18, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

Heracleum lanatum (cow parsnip) is the only Heracleum that is native to North America. Cow parsnip occurs from Newfoundland west to Alaska and south to California, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, and Georgia. It is not found in northern Canada or in the extreme southern and southeastern regions of the United States.

Cow parsnip is a valuable forage species for deer, elk, moose, and bear. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers in Idaho use cow parsnip as cover and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse use the black hawthorn/cow parsnip habitat type as escape cover, especially in the winter.

Negative HeraMaxout On Jul 14, 2009, HeraMaxout from Bridport, VT wrote:

We are trying to eradicate what I'd thought was H.M. from our property. It turns out that what we have is "wild parsnip" not "cow parsnip". Peterson's guide to edible wild plants helped us identify ours as not H.M. but Pastinaca Sativa. I'll leave this message in place since it appears the two plants are easy to confuse. Their common names seem to be used interchangably around here. Perhaps it will help others sort out which plant they have, H.M. or P.S. The picture of root in Peterson's guide helped us the most in identifying it.
The internet has been sketchy. No information about eradication. Any ideas? Please e-mail me at All resonable suggestions considered.
We now know P.S. is a biennial and that the plant dies after the second stage, presumably leaving the root to rot.
So far, pulling the plant seems to work. I pull them and toss them out in the road to dessicate and be ground up by passing cars. Such total destruction of the plant may not be necessary. Indeed, it would be far easier if, after pulling, it were effective to just leave the plant on the ground but we don't know if the uprooted plant stem and root will continue to feed the flowers enabling the plant to still form seeds as thistles do. Again, help here will be appreciated. Peterson's offered a helpful start but there is still little more information in the scant entry.
A test plot I cleared by pulling and removing the plant last year produced no new plants this year. When the soil is wet they come up with some effort but they do pull up...but this is time consuming and rewards (and develops) strong backs. Our variety seems to also grow in shade, leaving no space safe from it. It has hospital-green colored flowers. Bees do, indeed, like it. I've some plants here 7 feet tall, stems almost an inch across...magnificient specimens.
Protective clothing is "suggested" for this enterprise. A hazmat suit would be a good choice. Pull when it is cool and cloudy. While H.M. is said to effect skin when ultra violet light is present (sunlight,) P.S. requires the addition of sweat to damage skin. Wearing sunscreen might help keep the juices off skin. Washing exposed skin with soap and water after contact with the plant seems to keep the toxin from effecting the washed area.
Contact with it has sent two friends to the hospital, I have finally gotten over the black "burns" on my arm and leg and my wife's scars from it have faded after two years. We had come in contact with it before we understood what it was all about. The word "dangerous" seems to fit it well. It is invasive and is driving other wild flowers out.

Negative mati On Jun 16, 2004, mati from Anchorage, AK wrote:

I just dug it up this season. Got 3 bad burns a few years
ago during a sunny day, which I thought was due to my
fertilizing. The reddish brown scarring can still be seen
a bit to this day. I enjoyed seeing it each year after but
was very respectful and thankful that in my pruning it my
burns were not worse. It was a friend who informed me
that there are some poisonous plants here and with her
help I realized what had caused the burns. I now know
it is wise to educate ourselves about what we inherit in our landscapes.

Negative kaiwik On May 24, 2003, kaiwik from Kodiak, AK wrote:

Putchki is one of the first plants to show up in the Spring, and it is ONLY at this time that the tender shoots may be safely eaten. The stringy skin must be peeled first, and as it is very pungent, only a small amount is needed to add it's unique flavor to salads, soups, etc. In the Autumn the bulb may be dug and cooked. This is a subsistence food of the Aleuts.(Native Alaskans)

While impressive in stature and beauty, this plant is dangerous to handle while still green. The leaves and stems are covered with fine spines, which can inflict 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns which are very painful and leave scars. Never pop a putchki blister, as it is painful, spreads the poison, and exacerbates scarring. This plant is also very pungent, and the scent clings to anything that touches it. Extremely invasive, and difficult to eradicate.

Negative jez On Nov 16, 2002, jez wrote:

Heracleum sphondylium grows in a wide range of habitats including light, damp, mixed or deciduous forest, valley woodland, thickets and meadows. It reaches heights of between 30 and 150 centimetres and outcompetes other plants for light due to its height.
It is well documented that Hogweed produces a photosensitive reaction. This is due to the presence of a chemical called 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP), a furocoumarin. Only 1mg of 8-MOP per square centimetre of skin is necessary to produce blisters after 10 minutes in the midday sun. It is thought that this not only prevents livestock and other animals from eating it but also that it makes it resistant against fungal attack. This has been illustrated by research that showed that the level of 8-MOP increased by between 10 and 30 times when infected by a fungus.

Positive Weezingreens On Aug 11, 2002, Weezingreens from Seward, AK (Zone 3b) wrote:

Wild Cow Parsnip or Puski, as we call it in Alaska is a common roadside plant along back roads in our Southcentral region. Plants often tower to 8-10 feet when stalks head up for bloom. Pushki has a long taproot, so transplanting established plants is extremely difficult. However, they reseed freely.

While parts of the Pushki are edible, some individuals are allergic to it, so caution should be taken. Stems can be used as a celery substitute, but should be peeled before eating them.

While an impressive plant, Pushki is often viewed with disfavor because handling the plant can release furanocoumarin, a chemical that can cause sensitivity to light. Affected areas of a person's skin can show symptoms similar to sunburn, including blistering and running sores. Gloves should be worn when handling this plant.

Neutral Lilith On May 4, 2002, Lilith from Durham
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

A robust, bristly plant that has coarse foliage and almost flat-topped flower-heads with larger petals around the edges. These broad flower-heads attract many insects, especially the orange or brownish Soldier Beetle.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Sitka, Alaska
Valparaiso, Indiana
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Salem, Oregon

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