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Monday, July 6, 2009

Wild Parsnip - Another Plant to Avoid

wild parsnip
wild parsnip (photo from NYS DOT)
compiled from various sources

Wild Parsnip has been reported on the Finger Lakes Trail in New York near Hornell on map M9. Actually the plant can be encountered anywhere along the North Country Trail as it grows throughout the United States except in the extreme southeast.

This is another plant to be avoided, similar to poison ivy. Some people can have a reaction to the sap of this plant. While it is not as serious as an encounter with the Giant Hogweed, a blistered rash and long-lasting scars can result.

Phytophotodermatitis is the official name of the condition. When plant juice comes in contact with the skin in the presence of sunlight the skin may blister. The problem is most severe when the plant is flowering.

Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, is a member of the carrot family, and like the Wild Carrot (Queen Anne's Lace), has an umbel of flowers held above the leaves. The flowers of the Wild Parsnip are usually yellow. The leaves are compound, but not finely divided.

The plant can be safely handled with gloves, and can be killed by cutting the tap root with a shovel below the surface of the ground. It seeds prolifically, and collected plants should be bagged in plastic and landfilled, or burned.

If you do get the sap of this plant on your skin, wash as soon as possible with plenty of water.

See Astoria Boy Scout Troop 105 for much more information.
See Avoid Giant Hogweed - Severe Skin Reactions


Lin said...

Is this also known as 'rue'?? We had rue and it burned our skin like that. Horrible plant.

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Lin- although a great many plants have ended up with common names that include the word rue, I don't know of any that cause a rash. Now I'm curious to know more about your plant.

Denise Thornton said...

Wild Parsnip is a problem in Wisconsin too! I've been battling it on my 44 acres for 5 years now, and know it well.
If you want to learn some intersting details I've gathered about how it does it's damage (which can be pretty severe) to our skin, check out my post of June 30.

Denise Thornton

Mother Goose said...

Very informative! I thought the first picture looked like Queen Anne's Lace but I didn't notice the different color of the flowers. I've seen this plant as well but didn't know it wasn't Queen Anne's lace. Thanks for letting us know.

Lin said...

We went to a historic town and they had a garden that included all plants that they used for medicines, teas, and herbs. The rue they used for something, but I don't remember what. We went to trim it back and days later, we had burns up and down our arms and legs. It took us forever to figure out that it was the rue. I read up on it and we tore it out to prevent the kids from getting burned. I don't remember a thing about it other than it burned us. Joe seems to think it had nicotine in it, but I think he's goofy.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Thanks for commenting Denise & Mother Goose. I'm doing another post about this plant today

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

OK, Lin! I think I have your plant. Common rue or Herb-of-Grace. It is Ruta graveolens. It has yellow flowers and compound leaves. But the flowers are simple with four petals. Not everyone has the skin reaction to it, but yes, it is also phytophotodermatitis.

This is great! You made me learn something new.

Denise- I put the link to your great post on my July 7 post. Thanks so much.

A.Marie said...

I live in Central IL and I wonder if this plant is in our area. About 3 years ago, I was working in my yard and must have gotten into some kind of nasty weed, because I ended up with a blistery, burning rash on both of my knees. It was absolutely awful; it hurt and itched at the same time.

I really love your blog(s) by the way; they are so informative! ;)

Anonymous said...

I have some white flowers in my Garden (Aylmer Quebec) that I had left because they looked pretty. I am now wondering if they are Gian Hogweed. I also have some other plants that I am unable to identify. Can anyone suggest a web site that would help me identify plants in my garden. I am new to having a back yard so don't know whats in it.