DANGEROUS PLANTS: Wild Parsnip
Ontario has been invaded by several noxious weeds that can be quite hazardous to your health. From the age-old poison ivy to stinging nettle, Ontario is no stranger to plants that strike back! One of the most dangerous and also the most invasive is the dreaded Wild Parsnip. It’s reported that wild parsnip has been noted in every province in Canada as early as 1943. However, it really only began to take a serious hold by 2011-2012. By 2015 it was officially placed on the Noxious Weed list.
Wild Parsnip is part of the carrot family. While the root of the plant is, in fact, edible, the rest of the plant causes various degrees of dermatitis. The chemical compounds of the plant react with sunlight on your skin and cause inflammation and third-degree burns. They are biennial plants which means they take 2 full years to complete one life cycle. The first year they are simple green juvenile plants with no flowers or seeds. However, in their second year of life they will flower, as well as seed and then die. They can only reproduce by seed so if you can rid of these plants before they seed, you will minimize their ability to spread. Knowing the stages of life and reproductive capabilities of this weed will help you eradicate this weed on your property and help to keep you, your family and pets/wildlife safe.
My Personal Account
If you’ve been unlucky enough to experience the consequences of coming in contact with wild parsnip, it’s likely something you’ll never forget. For me, in 2012, my first year working landscaping and the same summer that Wild Parsnip made news headlines. Before the headlines took over the media I was unaware of the dangers. Unfortunately, I was unlucky enough to accidentally weed whack the plant and ended up with 3rd degree burns all down my neck. It awful. Have you been affected by this plant? If so, tell me your story in the comments.
Identification of Wild Parsnip
Identifying wild parsnip (sometimes referred to as Poison Parsnip) in it’s first year of life can be rather difficult. However, in the second year, wild parsnip produces very distinguishable yellow flowers that start to die off in August turning to seed. A fully mature illustration of wild parsnip is seen to the left (black and white photo) as well as baby and juvenile parsnip specimens being shown in color.
If you need help getting rid of this plant from your property, please contact me. I will gladly (and safely) remove this toxic weed for you.
Eradication of Wild Parsnip
There are several modes of transportation that wild parsnip seeds can take. It can be carried to your property by the wind, wildlife, motorized vehicles such as trucks, ATV’s and tractors and even by you! On the bottom of your shoes, the cuff of your pants. Light-weight plant seeds can travel quite the distance. This makes it extremely difficult to completely eradicate but there are ways to help lessen the spread!
Some will tell you that in order to stop the spread that you must spray the cancer-rich product ‘Round Up’ by Monsanto. This is in fact not true. With some diligence, persistence and patience you can drastically lessen the parsnip population. Keeping in mind that one fully mature plant can drop up to 950+ seeds – I really stress that you need patience lol.
The key is to pull them out. One by one. Removing them at the taproot of the plant in early to mid-July before they get the chance to seed. This will lessen that plant’s opportunity to spread to zero. Since these are biennial plants, after a few short years of completing this task – you’ll eventually just lessen the population down to whatever blows in by the wind, which will be minimal and controllable.
Yes, it takes a lot of time and patience – this is a no-chemical way to help minimize and eradicate the species. It’s probably your best hope but also the most dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. Because you have to touch these plants, there is a high risk of exposure to its noxious traits if improperly handled – if you are unsure, you should always call a professional. Your Garden Gal offers noxious weed removal services for parsnip for properties up to 15,000 sq ft.
If you plan to tackle this yourself, please familiarize yourself with this plant, in all its stages of life. Educate yourself on the precautions to take in order to avoid injury and what to do if you’ve been subjected to the plant without the proper protective gear. Knowledge is power in this case, and it’ll help you to avoid painful mistakes that can quite literally scar you for life.