For years, I thought today’s featured plant was a European invader, but cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum) is native to most of the U.S. and Canada.
Sometimes known as common cowparsnip, these plants are easy to spot in the late spring and early summer, in part because of their large clusters of small white flowers. They also tend to be taller than anything growing nearby. (By the late summer, other woodland plants may reach similar heights.) Cow parsnip “can be found in both high quality natural areas and disturbed habitats,” but I’ve mostly seen them in the woods. I took most of these pictures near trails in Des Moines and Clive in early June.
Cow parsnip is “the native counterpart to the highly invasive non-native Giant Hogweed.” It grows taller than the non-native wild parsnip, which has yellow flowers and should be avoided unless you want to experience a horrible blistering rash.