What You Need to Know About Wild Parsnip

Wild parsnip is an invasive plant species, it is believed that European setters brought it to North America for its edible root. It is also known as poison parsnip and is a member of the carrot/parsley family. Like giant hogweed and other members of the carrot family, wild parsnip produces sap containing chemicals that can cause the human skin to react to sunlight, resulting in intense burns, rash and blisters. It typically grows a low, spindly rosette of leave in the first year while the root develops. In the second year, it flowers on a tall stalk and then dies. The plant can form dense stands and spreads quickly in disturbed areas such as abandoned yards, waste dumps, meadows, open fields and roadsides. Its seeds can easily be dispersed by the wind, water and mowing the lawn.

How to Identify Wild Parsnip 

  • Grows up to 1.5 metres tall
  • The single green stem is 2 to 5 centimetres thick and smooth with a few hairs
  • Compound leaves are arranged in pairs, with sharply toothed leaflets that are shaped like a mitten
  • Yellowish green flowers form umbrella-shaped clusters 10 to 20 centimetres across
  • Seeds are flat and round

Wild Parsnip Removal & Disposal 

It is recommended that with larger infestations that you seek a professional exterminator and may also require repeated treatments. Although, if you have small clusters, you may be able to manage the removal of the plant yourself. Wear protective clothing such as gloves, long-sleeved shirts and pants to avoid any sap from touching your skin. It is also important to replace any clothing that you were wearing and place in the laundry to be washed. To remove wild parsnip, you must dig out as much of the taproot as you can with a sharp shovel or spade. Digging is most effective in the spring when the soil is moist and the taproot can be easily removed. You may also use herbicides but it important to ensure the product you are buying can be used on wild parsnip. For best results, apply herbicide to the leave of actively growing plants in the spring, followed by summer application for missed plants that are still growing.

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