This is one plant you don’t want to pick–unless you like blisters.
ild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa
) lines the ditches of the rural roads I walk and drive on. Its yellow umbels reach peak bloom around the same time as the orange ditch lilies (Hemerocallis fulva
). The yellow and orange complement each other nicely, but this is one wildflower you don’t
want to pick.
Given a few years, wild parsnip will outcompete all other vegetation.
I first wrote about wild parsnip
in 2004, and I’m really surprised that this plant and what it can do isn’t better known by now, especially since it seems to be taking over along the roadsides. I first learned about wild parsnip when determining the cause of blisters my boys got after string trimming weeds for a neighbor. The Wisconsin Natural Resources article I found back then is still the best information about wild parsnip
that I’ve found. I printed it out and took it to my children’s doctor, and he admitted he had diagnosed a case of poison ivy the week before that was probably the burn from wild parsnip.
This is a wild parsnip leaf.
Wild parsnip does its dirty work in an entirely different way than poison ivy. You can touch wild parsnip and nothing will happen, because it is the sap that must get on your skin. So any snapped stem or torn leaf, such as might happen if you were pushing the plant out of your way on a hike, or picking the flowers, or string trimming it down to neaten the roadside, will leave you vulnerable. And then, the sap on your skin must be exposed to sunlight to cause the burn.
This is the flower.
We’ve been battling this plant for over ten years at our old house. A couple of weeks ago, two of my sons went over there to cut the lawn and string trim. The one who wore shorts had blisters on his calf and around his ankles the next day.
Don’t mow or string trim wild parsnip without gloves, long sleeves, and long pants–even when it’s hot.
Not all wildflowers play nice.
More About Wild Parsnip
Botanical Dermatology Database–if you suspect you have a plant-related skin problem, this is a good place to do research.
Wild parsnip vs poison ivy Which do you have?
Be Aware of Wild ParsnipNY Department of Transportation document with a good selection of images of all the plant’s stages.
Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogosphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”