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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



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Pale Pink

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds


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

Sitka, Alaska

Valparaiso, Indiana

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Salem, Oregon

Gardeners' Notes:


On Dec 31, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

H. maximum (cow-parsnip), native to most of North America, is easily confused with the invasive giant hogweed, H. mantegazzianum, a native of the Caucasus and central Asia. Both are big robust plants with big bold foliage and big flat plates of white flowers. Both are biennial. Both can cause a serious photodermatitis that can scar. Though both self-sow aggressively, only the latter is ecologically invasive in N. America.

H. maximum is endangered in Kentucky and a plant of special concern in Tennessee.


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.


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 [email protected]. All resonable suggestions considered.
We now know P.S. is ... read more


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.


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 touch... read more


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 wh... read more


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. Glo... read more


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.