Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa L.) is very common in many parts of Vermont. The plants grow wild along roadsides and other unmaintained areas and produce yellow flowers that look like Queen Anne’s Lace.
Although this is the same plant as the common garden parsnip we eat in soups and stews, the flower heads are the second-year growth from the carrot-like roots. It is a close relative of carrots, parsley, angelica, and giant hogweed, all of which can cause similar skin reactions in sensitive individuals.
Health Effects of Exposure to Wild Parsnip
Wild parsnips produce a sap, or plant juice, that can cause burns to the skin in the presence of sunlight. In some cases, the burns are like second-degree sunburns that can cause painful rashes and raised blisters.
If you get sap on your skin:
- Wash your skin thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible.
- Protect your exposed skin from sunlight for at least 48 hours.
- If you experience a skin reaction, call your health care provider.
Avoid Contact with Wild Parsnip
The Health Department advises people to stay away from direct contact with wild parsnip sap. Avoid skin and eye contact with the sap.
If you need to work with the plant:
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wash clothes that come in contact with the sap.
- Work with the plant on cloudy days.
- Always wash your skin immediately after coming in contact with the sap.
Wild parsnip flower (left), first-year growth (right)