Toxic parsnip plants found throughout Pontiac

0
76

Wild Parsnip, a toxic plant that can cause burn-like rashes on skin, has been spotted in abundance on Pontiac area roads this year.

Allyson Beauregard

PONTIAC – Despite reports of the presence of the highly dangerous giant hogweed plant (Heracleum


Wild Parsnip, a toxic plant that can cause burn-like rashes on skin, has been spotted in abundance on Pontiac area roads this year.

Allyson Beauregard

PONTIAC – Despite reports of the presence of the highly dangerous giant hogweed plant (Heracleum
mantegazzianum) in Portage-du-Fort, the plants have been confirmed as Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum), a less toxic relative. Both Cow Parsnip and Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) have been spotted in abundance along roadsides in the Pontiac this year.
Both species can cause a skin rash if, after getting the clear sap onto one’s skin, it is exposed to the sun; in extreme cases blindness can even occur. Wild Parsnip grows from about 0.5 to 1.5 meters in height and has yellow flower
clusters about 10 to 20
centimetres in diameter. Cow Parsnip grows about 1 to 2.5 meters in height and has white umbrella-shaped flower clusters made up of 15 to 30 small clusters.
Although both species of parsnip often become a problem in abandoned agricultural areas, the reverse seems to be occurring in the Pontiac. “We are actually seeing the reverse in terms of farm fields becoming invaded – it’s moving from infested ditches into fields,” explained Kari Richardson, MRC Pontiac Environmental Coordinator. 
The first step in managing both variations of parsnip effectively is to learn to identify the plants both before and after they have flowered. Small infestations of less than 100 plants can be managed by property owners themselves, but protective clothing (waterproof gloves, long sleeved shirts, pants, and eye protection) must be worn to prevent the weeds’ sap from coming in contact with the skin, and the
plants must be disposed of
carefully.
The weeds can be dug out by the root using a shovel or spade (most effective in the spring) or can be controlled using
certain pesticides and
herbicides. It is imperative that property owners do not burn or compost plants or roots that have been cut down or dug up; they should be placed in dark plastic bags and left in the sun to dry out away from children and pets.
Although mowing will not prevent the cut plants from re-sprouting, it will help prevent the weeds from spreading by eliminating the dispersal of seeds. Caution should be taken
when using weed-whips and trimmers as they can spray users with sap and pieces of the plants, leading to redness and sometimes hundreds of blisters on exposed skin. 
Some Pontiac municipalities have been pro-actively managing the parsnip infestations by mowing municipal ditches before the plants go to seed, according to Richardson.  “Some have also attempted to appeal to the Ministry of Transport to do their share as well (since many) highway ditches have not yet been mowed or treated,” she added. 
Karine Sauve, MTQ Spokesperson, explained that contrary to ragweed, giant hogweed and
common reed, the MTQ doesn’t have a policy or any guidelines concerning the eradication of Wild Parsnip or Cow Parsnip along roads and highways. “Citizens who see the parsnip along highways and roads can inform the MTQ so we can document the presence of this plant on our road
network,” she added, stating the contractor responsible for mowing roadsides should be starting soon and the work should be completed by September 1st.
If skin comes into contact with the toxic weeds, wash it thoroughly with soap and water and avoid further exposure of the affected skin to sunlight. If a burn-like rash develops, seek medical attention immediately.