If you have a rash or other skin problem that you think might be plant related, trying using the search engine at the Botanical Dermatology Database. I checked out my family’s old enemy Pastinaca sativa (aka wild parsnip), and learned a few things. First of all, wild parsnip and cultivated parsnip are the same thing, and you can get the blisters and subsequent skin pigmentation from either. Secondly, if your skin is wet (and whose isn’t on a hot summer day?) the reaction is more likely. Third, “the active spectral band for evoking phytophotodermatitis from the plant was found to be 320-360nm.” Okay, so that last part isn’t too helpful, but the other two things were good to know. Eating parsnips poses no problem, but if you like them enough to grow them, wear long sleeves and gloves when you harvest them.
Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.
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