Parsnip plants are identified by sight and have branched, hollow stems with mitten-shaped leaflets on the stems and diamond-shaped leaflets on the ends. Parsnip has yellow flowering stalks when it blooms in June and July.
Parsnips are around 6 inches tall in the rosette stage and 4 inches tall in the flowering stage. The leaves alternate along the stems and are egg-shaped. Upper leaves are smaller than leaflets further down on the stem. Parsnip leaves emit a strong odor when crushed.
The flower clusters measure 2 to 6 inches across. Each flower has five petals, five stamens and one pistil. Parsnip seeds are small, round and flat. They vary from light brown to hay-colored and can survive in soil for four years.
The parsnip is a biennial plant grown for its edible taproots. Parsnips are related to parsley and carrots. The long tuberous roots of the parsnip are left in the ground to mature before being harvested.
Parsnip sap contains skin irritants, so touching the stems or leaves causes a rash to appear on the body. The rash is a chemical burn, not an allergic reaction, and causes redness, burning and blisters similar to the poison ivy rash. Wild parsnip plants are often found in dense vegetation and unkempt fields or prairies. Parsnip identification is essential in avoiding this rash.