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Smooth Meadow Parsnip, Woodland Meadow Parsnip, Yellow Meadow Parsnip, Purple Meadow Parsnip - Thaspium trifoliatum


Family: Apiaceae - Carrot family Genus Common Name: Meadow Parsnip Native Status: Native
Thaspium trifoliatum - Smooth Meadow Parsnip, Woodland Meadow Parsnip, Yellow Meadow Parsnip, Purple Meadow Parsnip. Thaspium - Meadow Parsnip - is a small genus with only 3 or 4 species, all found only in eastern and central North America. Meadow Parsnips are very similar to plants in the Zizia genus. The yellow variety of Thaspium trifoliatum - the plant presented here - is very difficult to distinguish from Zizia aurea, Golden Alexanders. Since seeds and basal leaves are generally not available during flowering, the primary means of differentiating between those two species is that the central flower of each umbellet in Zizia aurea is sessile, while all flowers in the inflorescence of Thaspium trifoliatum are pedicellate. Because of the similarity, the common name Golden Alexanders is often (incorrectly?) applied to the yellow variety of Thaspium trifoliatum.

Thaspium trifoliatum has two varieties - var. trifoliatum, which has dark maroon flowers, and aureum, which has golden yellow flowers,although some authorities use different characteristics to differentiate between varieties and allow var. aureum to have maroon petals. Both varities are found in the southeastern United States, with var. trifoliatum (the maroon variety) extendings its range further westward in the south to Texas, and further northward into Minnesota, and Ontario, Canada on the western edge, and into New York in the eastern end of its range. Some authorities classify the yellow variety of this plant as Thaspium trifoliatum var. flavum rather than var. areum, but ITIS and most other authorities do not accept var. flavum.

Found in:
AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV
Thaspium trifoliatum

Distribution of Thaspium trifoliatum in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 25 Feb 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-05Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The inflorescence of Thaspium trifoliatum is a compound umbel up to about 3 inches wide. The inflorescence is made up of 4 to 10 (occasionally 11) umbel rays; that of the similar Zizia aurea will normally have 10 to 18 rays, although there may be as few as 8.
Thaspium trifoliatum

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-05Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Each flower in the umbellet has a relatively long pedicel (flower stalk).
Click on the photo for a larger image
Thaspium trifoliatum

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-05Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The caudal (stem) leaves of Thaspium trifoliatum are alternate and usually trifoliate, although the upper leaves may have 5 leaflets. The basal leaves are usually simple and cordate. The margins of both caudal and basal leaves have relatively fine teeth, generally around 8 - 20 teeth per inch. The tips of the teeth are relatively obtuse, and are usually calloused.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Thaspium trifoliatum

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-05Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Smooth Meadow Parsnip grows to about 3 feet tall and is found in moist forests and along streambanks throughout most of the eastern and central United States.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Thaspium trifoliatum

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-05Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The Smooth Meadow Parsnip common name is used to compare with Thaspium barbinode - Hairyjoint Meadow Parsnip. The latter plant has hairy stem joints, while those of Thaspium trifoliatum are smooth.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Thaspium trifoliatum

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer