Being mid June, it’s now the time of year that Poison Parsnip (aka Wild Parsnip or Pastinaca sativa) is blooming on the roadsides, ditches, marshes and forest edges of Saratoga County. Many people confuse Poison Parsnip with the early blooming shade tolerant native species plant Golden Alexander (Zizea aurea), which is a larval host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly. The Wild Parsnip/Golden Alexander mix-up is an easy mistake to make, but there’s a couple easy ways to key the plants out from each other. Though the yellow blooms of both flowers are very similar, Golden Alexander flowers happen earlier, usually May or even April. Poison Parsnip doesn’t usually bloom until early June.
The other, easier tell is how tall Poison Parsnip is compared to Golden Alexander- Poison Parsnip can be very tall, even 5-7 feet in height. Golden Alexander is small, rarely taller than a foot. Poison Parsnip is an introduced species, considered invasive, aggressive or problematic in some states. If some has volunteered itself in your garden, be very careful handling it; don’t touch it with your bare skin and avoid direct sunlight if you do as a rash can result.