Is That Carrot a Cow or a Hog?

Don’t confuse our native American cow parsnip with giant hogweed

There are all kinds of carrots.  As a matter of fact, the carrot plant family, Apiaceae, contains over 3,000 species, including native types such as American cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) and angelica (Angelica atropurpurea), along with non-native invasive species that can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness like wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) and giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).

Many plants are often misidentified as giant hogweed; the most common of those being our native American cow parsnip. Native cow parsnip is common in our region and provides nectar for butterflies & other beneficial insects. The cow parsnip flowers turn into attractive tan colored seed heads that smell faintly of anise and provide food for birds through the winter.  Only a few populations of the invasive giant hogweed have been found in three Wisconsin counties north of our region and those populations are aggressively managed and monitored.

Here are some tips to help you differentiate between these two species:


For great photographs and more information regarding the characteristics of American cow parsnip, giant hogweed and similar species, and for hogweed control methods, visit New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  Also, check out this useful video which was created by the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver to help people identify giant hogweed and to be better able to discern it from the native cow parsnip and Giant hogweed control methods from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

If you believe you may have giant hogweed growing in your area, contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  And, if you happen across a patch of American cow parsnip, stop and appreciate the beauty of this massive native perennial!