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Purple Meadow Parsnip (Thaspium trifoliatum var. flavum)

Life history

Species overview

Purple Meadow Parsnip (Thaspium trifoliatum var. flavum), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in moist prairies and woodlands, but is naturalized on roadsides and embankments. Blooming occurs late May through late June; fruiting occurs early July through early October. The optimal identification period for this species is early July through late September.

Synonyms: Thaspium aureum, Thaspium trifoliatum var. aureum


  • Distinguishing characteristics: If in fruit, look for broad wings on all sides. If in flower, look for the central flower of each umbellet, which will be staminate and pediceled. Note: Some individuals of Zizia have umbellets with staminate, pediceled central flowers. Be sure to examine enough material to make a distinction between these species.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers all pedicellate; petals yellow, cream or dark purple.
  • Fruit characteristics: Ellipsoid, 3.5 to 5 mm, three-fourths as wide, including the broad wings.
  • Leaf characteristics: Basal leaves simple, broadly ovate, usually cordate at the base; cauline leaves ordinarily pinnate, with 3 or 5 ovate or lanceolate.


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


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Quercus macrocarpa, Salix sp., Cornus racemosa, Anemone virginiana, Eupatorium purpureum, Arenaria lateriflora, Potentilla arguta, Eryngium yuccifolium, Ratibida pinnata.

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 Purple Meadow Parsnip (Thaspium trifoliatum var. flavum). 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 Thaspium trifoliatum var. flavum in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5T5
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 moist prairies and woodlands, but is naturalized on roadsides and embankments.
  • Soils: Wet to dry-mesic soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Purple Meadow Parsnip. 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 Purple Meadow Parsnip. 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 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

  • Maintain open to partially open canopy; avoid closed canopy conditions.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).


Purple Meadow Parsnip Photo.

Photo © Kitty Kohout.

Purple Meadow Parsnip Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

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