The wild parsnip
Stevens, C.J. 1984. Parsnips. The Literary Review 28:119.
||To a biologist (and to those unfortunate enough to have
had intimate contact with parsnips), the poem by C.J. Stevens has unintended meaning; the
phrase "and in me a burning too" is less likely to impart the notion of desire
than a true physical burning. Wild parsnips, like many of their apiaceous relatives,
contain furanocoumarins, toxic chemicals that once absorbed by
the skin and exposed to solar UV cause painful blistering (photodermatitis).
|Where do parsnips grow? Wild parsnips (Pastinaca
sativa L.), introduced from Europe in the 17th century, were probably brought to
North America by colonists as a food plant. The wild plants typically occupy sunny,
disturbed habitats, such as railroad rights-of-way and roadsides throughout the
northeastern part of the U.S.
||A monocarpic biennial
In central Illinois, the parsnip is largely biennial. It reproduces once
during its lifetime (monocarpic), flowering in May and June. For further
information, check out the parsnip lifecycle.
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last updated 4/8/2000