Wild Parsnip a Growing Concern

Invasive plant has roots in Mississippi Valley Watershed

For immediate release

July 17, 2015 Carleton Place, ON—Wild parsnip is an invasive plant that is prevalent throughout the province, including the Mississippi Valley Watershed. It was likely brought to North America by European settlers, who grew it for its edible root. Wild populations are thought to be a result of escaped, cultivated plants.

“In Ontario, wild parsnip is most often found along fence rows, the edges of farm fields, watercourses and drainage areas. It often grows with perennial grasses,” said Elizabeth Salter, Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority’s Invasive Species Community Outreach Liaison. “The problem with wild parsnip is that the plant can form dense stands that outcompete native plants, reducing biodiversity.”

Wild parsnip, also known as poison parsnip, was added to the Noxious Weed List in 2015 and is a member of the carrot/parsley family. It typically grows a low, spindly rosette of leaves in the first year while the root develops. In the second year it flowers on a tall stalk and then dies. Like giant hogweed and other members of the carrot family, it produces sap containing chemicals that can cause human skin to react to sunlight, resulting in intense burns, rashes or blisters. If you come into contact with the sap, you should:
• Wash thoroughly with grease-cutting soap and water
• Avoid further exposure of affected skin to UV/sunlight
• If burns occurs (symptoms appear within 48 hours) seek medical consultation
• If there is direct exposure to the eye (cornea), immediately flush with water and seek medical attention

The best way to avoid an unpleasant run in with wild parsnip is to learn how to identify it:
• Grows up to 1.5 metres tall.
• The single green stem is two to five centimetres thick and smooth with few hairs.
• Compound leaves are arranged in pairs, with sharply toothed leaflets that are shaped like a mitten.
• Yellowish green flowers form umbrella-shaped clusters 10 to 20 centimetres across.
• Seeds are flat and round.

For more information, call the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or report your sighting online at. www.eddmaps.org/Ontario. You will be asked to send in photos for identification. DO NOT touch, cut or collect parts of the plant for identification purposes.

MVCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario. Formed in 1968, MVCA’s mandate is to manage the watershed’s resources in partnership with our eleven member municipalities and the Province of Ontario. For more information, visit www.mvc.on.ca, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.



Elizabeth Salter
Invasive Species Community Outreach Liaison

Shannon Gutoskie
Community Relations Coordinator
613-253-0006 ext. 225

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