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Pastinaca sativa - L.

Common Name Parsnip, Wild parsnip
Family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards Skin contact with the sap can cause photosensitivity and/or dermatitis in some people[65, 76, 218]. Parsnip is said to contain the alleged 'psychotroph' myristicine[218].
Habitats Roadsides and grassy waste places, especially on chalk and limestone[17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to Spain, the Caucasus and Altai.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Pastinaca sativa Parsnip, Wild parsnip

Pastinaca sativa Parsnip, Wild parsnip


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Pastinaca sativa is a BIENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.3 m (1ft).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Peucedanum sativum.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Root  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses: Condiment

Root - raw or cooked[2, 4, 5, 9, 27, 183]. When well grown, the cooked root has a very tender texture, though it is rather chewy raw[K]. It is best harvested after there have been some autumn frosts because it will have developed a sweeter flavour[61]. The root is delicious baked, it can also be used in soups etc and can be added to cakes, pies and puddings[183]. Leaves and young shoots - cooked with other greens as a vegetable or added to soups etc[9, 183]. Used in early spring[9]. The seed is used as a condiment[9]. Similar in taste to dill[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Poultice  Women's complaints

A tea made from the roots has been used in the treatment of women's complaints[222]. A poultice of the roots has been applied to inflammations and sores[222]. The root contains xanthotoxin, which is used in the treatment of psoriasis and vitiligo[222]. Xanthotoxin is the substance that causes photosensitivity (see note above on toxicity)[222].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Insecticide  Repellent

The leaves and roots are used to make an insect spray[20]. Roughly chop the leaves and roots, put them in a basin with enough water to cover, leave them overnight then strain and use as an insecticide against aphids and red spider mite[201].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Succeeds in most ordinary well-drained soils[16]. Requires an open situation[37]. Prefers a deep rich soil that is not too stiff[1]. The parsnip is often cultivated in the temperate zone for its edible root, there are a number of named varieties[46, 183, 200]. Normally cultivated as a winter root crop, some cultivars are faster to mature and can be available in late summer[200]. The roots are very frost hardy and can be left in the ground to be harvested as required, though they can also be lifted in the autumn and stored for a few months[200]. The flowers are very attractive to hover flies and predatory wasps[201]. Plants have very few insect pests, though they are sometimes attacked by carrot root fly[201]. Growing onions with the parsnips can reduce the damage[201]. Roots of the wild form can quite quickly be increased in size by selective breeding and good cultivation, it is possible to obtain good sized roots in only 6 years. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is fleshy. Thick or swollen - fibrous or tap root [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow from late winter to late spring in situ. Seed can be slow to germinate, especially from the earlier sowings[200], it is best to mark the rows by sowing a few radishes with the parsnips. The seed has a short viability, very few will still be viable 15 months after harvesting[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

TEMPERATE ASIA: Turkey, Russian Federation-Ciscaucasia (Ciscaucasia), Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation (Dagestan), Russian Federation-Western Siberia (Western Siberia) EUROPE: Denmark, United Kingdom, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Russian Federation (European part), Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine (Krym), Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Croatia, Italy (incl. Sardinia, Sicily), North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, France (incl. Corsica)

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

   Jun 27 2011 12:00AM

Very tasty root, raw or cooked! Seeds take much time to sprout, and they only last a year. Seeds older than that lose viability, as I could sadly verify. The plants grow very well, and make nice root, if soil is fertile and loose. I also have grown it successfully in containers.

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