Wild Parsnip: How to Avoid Allergic Reactions


Submitted 4 months ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

Wild Parsnip is in bloom now. It’s a tall plant, 24 to 60 inches, and has yellow blossoms arranged in flat flower panicles. It looks a lot like Queen Anne’s lace. It is, genetically, the same plant as garden parsnips, but has escaped and become a weed. Some people are horribly allergic to its sap. Here’s what you need to know so you and your kids can stay safe.

Wild parsnip is not like poison ivy: you need sap on your skin, not just a casual touch to react.

1.     Learn what it looks like, and avoid it. Show it to your children, and warn them against it. Sap from the stem, if on the skin and exposed to direct sunlight, can cause horrible burns. Not everyone reacts, however. Assume you do.

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2.     If you get sap on you, go inside IMMEDIATELY and wash the affected area thoroughly. Stay out of the sun for a few hours afterwards, just to be safe.

3.     Wild parsnip has a 2-year cycle. The first year it stays low and develops a deep tap root. The second year it bolts and produces a tall flower stalk.

4.     If you have a field of wild parsnip, get it mowed before the flowers set seeds. And re-mowed until it gives up.  The sooner you mow it, the less likely the flowers are to produce viable seeds after they are cut down.

Get your field mowed now if you have wild parsnips.

5.     First year plants growing now will send up flower stalks next year. And each year, for a while, seeds in the ground will grow new plants. But each year there will be fewer, and eventually they will be gone.

Like any weed, wild parsnip can be managed. Be careful. And as they say in London, "Stay calm and carry on." 

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