Wild parsnip packs a punch

Wed. Sep. 7, 2016

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Wild parsnip packs a punch

Wild Parsnip is running rampant!  While it’s been a problem for some time, this year is exceptionally bad.   Workshops and seminars are popping up in communities to discuss the invasive plant and share information on the poisonous sap which packs a punch to those who have skin contact with it.

Wild parsnip leaves
Wild parsnip leaves

The sap, combined with sunlight, creates a chemical reaction called phytophotodermatitis and is so corrosive that it can cause second-degree burns!

Wild Parsnip rash

Wild parsnip - Wisconsin DNR
Wild parsnip – Wisconsin DNR

You need to wear full protection including gloves, long sleeves and long pants to prevent irritation. 

 Wild Parsnip [Dept. of Natural Resources] for more information

Burned by Wild Parsnip [Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine] for pictures

The likliest time to be bit by parsnip is in the Spring when the sap is at full flow.  Once the leaves have dried, it’s not so irritable!

Wild parsnip flowers
Wild parsnip flowers

Wild Parsnip is a non native root vegetable that’s run amok.  It escaped cultivation and, once established, has  spread quickly.  Well established prairies are not likely to be invaded by wild parsnip, but it easily moves into disturbed habitats, along roadsides and rail lines and obviously in newly restored prairie areas.  However, it’s best to know what it looks like.  It doesn’t seem to care if the soil is dry or moist.  Lots of folks eat cultivated parsnip which looks and tastes like a carrot only stronger flavor and lighter in color.  While you could technically eat the roots of this Wild Parsnip, I wouldn’t recommend it.


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