Wild Parsnip


EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of the plants reported to us are definitely not wild parsnip, but we recommend educating yourself as finding wild parsnip in the forest nowadays would not be unlikely.

Many of you are familiar with poison ivy, but recently we have a new species popping up in small batches – Wild Parsnip. Some theorize birds are spreading the seeds and the loss of canopy from the ice-storm has allowed this shade intolerant species to gain a foothold in many areas this year. Regardless of how, this plant has been reported in the AF and it is a mean one. We take these reports seriously. Wild Parsnip comes from the same family as Giant Hogweed and will leave you with bad burns if the leaf oil gets on your skin.

“The chemicals in the plant that cause this problem are called furocoumarins. When absorbed by your skin, they’re energized by ultraviolet light, causing a breakdown of cells and skin tissue. This leaves you with a red, sunburn-like area. (Don’t think you’re safe on a cloudy day – you can still get burned since ultraviolet light is present even on cloudy days.) Once exposed, your skin will turn red within 24 to 48 hours. In many cases, after the skin reddens, blisters appear–some of them pretty big. Sometimes the area that was burned takes on a dark red or brown discoloration that can last for as long as 2 years.” – Source

“If one should come in contact with wild parsnip sap, you should immediately cover the exposed skin to prevent the reaction to sunlight (but the area will remain sensitized for about eight hours). The contact area should be washed with warm water and a mild soap. If exposure to sunlight causes a burn and blisters to develop the affected area should be covered with a cool, damp cloth to help relieve pain. The blistered skin should be kept out of the sunlight to avoid further burning. If blistering is severe, see a physician. There is no cure for parsnip burns; however, a topical or systemic cortisone steroid may relieve discomfort.” – Source

“Vampire syndrome, I’ve named it. Because you can go out at night and do what you want, but during the day you have to hide because the UV rays will burn you,” “All of the sudden you can’t go in a boat. You can’t go canoeing, really. You have to stay totally covered up all the time because you don’t want to set it off again.” – Source

Please note not all plants will be fully grown or in bloom as shown in pictures. The leafs are not all exactly the same either. The plant has a very pungent odour if you crush a leaf or stem. Do not attempt to remove this yourself and stay on the trail!

Random fact: This plant was introduced to Canada by European settlers as the root is apparently edible(disclaimer: Do your own research there!!)

Here are the reported locations and a handy guide:


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