Thaspium trifoliatum Purple Meadow Parsnip

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    Purple Meadow Parsnip is an herbaceous perennial in the Apiaceae (Carrot) family native to eastern North America from Minnesota to New York south to Texas and Florida, with concentrations found in the Mississippi River valley.  Its name means three leaves or leaflets.

    Basal leaves are heart-shaped, and stem leaves are divided trifoliate, toothed, and ovate 2″ long and half again as wide.  Both the basal leaves and the stem leaves are alternate and have upper and lower surfaces that are green and glabrous.

    The upper stems terminate in compound umbels of reddish-purple flowers that are 1-3″ wide. Each compound umbel has 6-12 rays that terminate in small umbellets of flowers. The rays are light green to pale purplish green, grooved along their upper sides, and glabrous. Each umbellet has 5-12 rays about 1/8 in. long that terminate in individual flowers. Each individual flower is very small, about a 1/10 in. across, consisting of 5 reddish-purple petals that fold inward. The blooming period occurs from mid-spring to early summer, lasting about 3-4 weeks.

    The flowers are replaced by small, winged fruits about 1/8 in. in length in the shape of an ellipse. Each fruit consists of a pair of carpels that each enclose a single seed. The wind can blow about the carpels to a limited extent.

    The Purple Meadow Parsnip prefers moist soil.  It can be grown in clay, sand, loam, and slightly rocky soil of any pH.  It is typically found along stream banks, in woodlands, or rocky slopes in moist, well-drained soil in full or part shade.  It works well in a pollinator garden, native or wildlife garden, but it can be difficult to source at a nursery.

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