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Prairie Parsley (Polytaenia nuttallii)

Life history

Species overview

Prairie Parsley (Polytaenia nuttallii), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found in prairies and persisting in open areas that were once savannas. Blooming occurs early May through late June; fruiting occurs late June through late August. The optimal identification period for this species is early May through late August.

Synonyms: Pleiotaenia nuttallii


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from wild parsnip and golden alexanders by its leaves, which are more finely divided.
  • Flower characteristics: Umbrella-shaped inflorescence, terminal, axillary and compound; flowered sections small, with numerous short pedicels (3 to 5 mm); sepals ovate; petals yellow; rays (stalks of umbels and umbellets) 10 to 20, rough to the touch.
  • Fruit characteristics: Elliptic or oblong, 6 to 8 mm, strongly flattened dorsally, depressed in the center over the dorsal ribs.
  • Leaf characteristics: Lower leaves long-petioled, ovate, the ultimate segments narrowly ovate to linear-oblong, each usually with a few sharp teeth.


  • Blooming phenology: early May through late June
  • Fruiting phenology: late June through late August
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early May through late August


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Andropogon gerardii, Solidago gigantea, Solidago rigida, Euphorbia corollata, Phlox pilosa, Tradescantia ohioensis, Lithspermum canescens, Stipa spartea.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Prairie Parsley (Polytaenia nuttallii). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Polytaenia nuttallii in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in prairies and persisting in open areas that were once savannas.
  • Soils: Dry to mesic, loamy soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Prairie Parsley. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Prairie Parsley. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid locating landings, staging areas, or access routes in open sandy areas dominated by native grasses.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Maintain low canopy cover areas for savanna and barrens plant species.


Prairie Parsley Photo.

Photo © Patricia Trochlell.

Prairie Parsley Photo.

Photo © Patricia Trochlell.

Prairie Parsley Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Prairie Parsley Photo.

Photo © Chris Noll.

Prairie Parsley Photo.

Photo © Chris Noll.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition