Between Sooke & Port Renfrew are moist roadside drainage ditches brimming with Heracleum lanatum.
Commonly named Cow Parsnip or Indian Parsley, you’d expect a gourmet treat, but it’s not something I’d eat.
Even still, this beauty contains a milky sap that is photo-toxic, kinda like euphorbia & poinsettia. Once exposed to sunshine, any skin that contacted the sap burns & blisters. Nasty.
But wait – there are some positive notes:
- The giant flowers are landing pads for butterflies. It’s important to many native pollinators.
- In its happy place, Cow parsnip can reach 3 metres – – that’s 10 feet tall! That’s architecturally impressive.
- It’s hairy – and deer seem to avoid fuzzy plants. Perhaps they’re finicky that way.
- Cow Parsnip is said to be kinda stinky. I didn’t notice, but now that I think about it, I wandered into this patch of Cow Parsnip after 5 days of camping – – so my own stink may have been masking all other smells…
Deer seem to avoid fragrant plants, so there’s a fair chance that Cow Parsnip is safe from them.
Hmmm, I might not be desperate enough for its food value, but I just might find a spot for Cow Parsnip in our landscape. Imagine this self-seeding biennial as a garden ornamental at the back of a moist bed or border.