Wisconsin summers are a time to get outdoors and enjoy nature. But, if your nature walk crosses paths with wild parsnip, beware! This harmless-looking, yellow-flowering plant looks innocent enough, but has potentially painful results.
Wild parsnip is an invasive plant and, if touched, can cause a rash and blistering. The sap contains a toxin which, when exposed to sunlight, causes a burn-like rash within 24-48 hours of contact.
Wild parsnip is being found all over the state in fairly large populations this year. The yellowish-greenish flowers have spread from rural ditches into towns and cities. These plants resemble Queen Anne’s lace, but don’t mistakenly pick this plant for your dining room table.
If you come into contact with the plant, cover your skin to protect it from the sunlight and wash as soon as possible. This can help reduce the reaction. Wear long sleeves and gloves when handling the plant and dispose of it in a landfill. If you have this noxious beast in your yard in low populations, you can cut it below ground before the plant has the ability to seed. This should prevent it from re-sprouting. It may be wise to make a second cut with a shovel blade below ground to ensure that it does not come back.
For larger stands, mow several times and then spray with an approved product. If you are using chemical control as an option, remember that there may be other sensitive plants in the same area that could be harmed. All clothing, equipment and tools that come in contact with this plant will be contaminated with the toxin. You will need to clean the debris and wash everything. If you have problems identifying wild parsnip, or you need ideas on how to deal with it, please contact an expert at McKay Nursery Company.
Check out this UW-Extension video on how to idenify wild parsnip: