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Purple Meadow Parsnip Thaspium trifoliatum

Phonetic Spelling
THAS-pee-um try-fol-ee-AH-tum
Description

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.  It’s 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. Two varieties of this species occur in North Carolina: T. trifoliatum var. trifoliatum (with maroon flowers) and T. trifoliatum var. aureum (with golden yellow flowers).

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 carpels can be blown about by the wind 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.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious problems.  

Quick ID

  • Striking reddish-purple flowers
  • Three leaves or leaflets
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • var. aureum
    Golden Yellow Flowers
var. aureum
Tags:
#showy flowers#low maintenance#stream banks#NC native#thickets#naturalizes#pollinator plant#larval host plant#NC Native Pollinator Plant#butterfly friendly#black swallowtail butterfly#wildlife friendly#woodland
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • var. aureum
    Golden Yellow Flowers
var. aureum
Tags:
#showy flowers#low maintenance#stream banks#NC native#thickets#naturalizes#pollinator plant#larval host plant#NC Native Pollinator Plant#butterfly friendly#black swallowtail butterfly#wildlife friendly#woodland
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Thaspium
    Species:
    trifoliatum
    Family:
    Apiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America
    Distribution:
    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
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant supports Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) larvae which appear between April and October and have one to two flights in the north or three flights in the south. Adult Black Swallowtail butterflies feed on flower nectar from thistles, milkweed and red clover.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Wildflower
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Schizocarp
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    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.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small reddish-purple in compound umbels 1-3 inches 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.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    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.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Ridged stems
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators