COUNTY AG NEWS
Wild Parsnip is among the rapidly increasing invasive weeds in many areas of Wisconsin. At this time of year we see Wild Parsnip growing Wild Parsnip is a yellow-green, tall plant that grows up to around five feet tall.
During the summer we see it up in the roadsides and in other uncultivated areas growing above other grass and roadside plants. Wild Parsnip is of concern because humans develop a severe skin irritation from contact with its leaves. Plants have chemicals called furocoumarins that cause an interaction between plants and light that induce skin inflammation.
Once the skin absorbs the furocoumarins, UV light energizes them on both sunny and cloudy days. They then bind to DNA and cell membranes, destroying cells and skin. Parsnip burns usually occur in streaks and elongated spots, reflecting where a damaged leaf or stem moved across the skin before exposure to sunlight. You can brush against Wild Parsnip plants and not be affected.
Parsnip is only dangerous when the plant sap from broken leaves or stems gets on your skin. One of the worst things to do is to use a weed eater to remove Wild Parsnip. This type of mechanical removal will splatter the plant sap all over the person and cause widespread burns and blisters.