Hairy-Jointed Meadow Parsnip
Carrot family (Apiaceae)
Description: This is a native perennial plant that branches sparingly, and is up to 3½' tall. The alternate leaves are bipinnately or ternately compound, and tend to be aggregated toward the base of the plant. The basal leaves are up to 12" long and 6" across, while smaller leaves are sparsely distributed along the middle and upper portions of the stems. Sometimes there are minute stiff hairs at the base of the petioles where the compound leaves meet the stem. The leaflets have large blunt teeth, and often occur in pairs or triplets, with the terminal leaflets achieving the largest size. Each leaflet is up to 1" long and ½" across, lanceolate or ovate, and has wedge-shaped lower margins. The overall appearance of the leaves resembles Italian Parsley.
Rounded compound umbels of light yellow flowers occur at the ends of the central stem and major side stems. Each umbel is about 3" across, and is composed of 12-20 umbellets. Each umbellet consists of a similar number of tiny flowers, each one with 5 petals. There is no noticeable floral scent. The blooming period occurs during the late spring or early summer, and lasts about a month. The root system consists of a central taproot.
Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun and mesic conditions. The soil can contain significant amounts of loam, sand, or rocky material. Light shade is tolerated, but growth will be less robust and flowering less abundant. Hairy-Jointed Meadow Parsnip develops rapidly during the spring, and is usually taller than the surrounding plants when the blooming period begins. After flowering, the condition of the plant rapidly deteriorates.
Range & Habitat: This plant occurs occasionally in scattered counties of Illinois. Its distribution is oddly bifurcated, consisting primarily of counties in East central and West central Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic black soil prairies, openings in forests and woodland borders, sandy savannas, rocky bluffs, and the borders of lakes. This plant occurs in prairies to a greater extent than has been realized in the past.
Faunal Associations: Many kinds of insects are attracted to the flowers, especially short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, and beetles. The caterpillars of the butterfly Papilio polyxenes asterias (Black Swallowtail) feed on the foliage and flowers. This plant is not known to be toxic, and is probably consumed occasionally by various mammalian herbivores, although information about this is limited.
Photographic Location: The photographs of the flowering plant and compound leaf were taken at Loda Cemetery Prairie in Iroquois County, Illinois. The photograph of the umbels and upper leaves was taken at a woodland in Vermilion County, Illinois.
Comments: This native member of the Carrot family should be grown more often in wildflower gardens. Sometimes it is called 'Hairy Meadow Parnsip,' but conspicuous hairs occur only at the base of the petioles of compound leaves, and these are not easy to see unless you know where to look. This plant resembles the weedy and aggressive Pastinaca sativa (Wild Parsnip), but the latter has flat compound umbels of yellow flowers, while Hairy-Jointed Meadow Parsnip has compound umbels of pale yellow flowers that are more rounded. There are also significant differences in the structure of the compound leaves between these two species.