Poisonous Plant Alert: Wild Parsnip

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Note: As an addendum to Marika's story about the Carleton Arboretum, here's an alert from Nancy Braker about poisonous wild parsnip in the Arb.

While this is a great time to enjoy and explore the Arboretum, we wanted to alert you to the risk of contact with Wild Parsnip.  It is not difficult to avoid exposure to this plant once you know what it looks like and you take simple precautions, so we encourage you to keep reading and learn what you can do to still enjoy being outdoors in the Arb in this great weather!

Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, is an invasive, non-native plant growing abundantly in portions of the Arboretum and in some of the un-mowed areas on campus such as around Lyman Lakes.  While Arboretum and Grounds staff are working to control this plant, it is important that Arb users be aware of possible health risks.  The juice from wild parsnip can cause skin to become ultra sensitive to sunlight, a phenomena known as "pytophotodermititis". Skin sensitization happens within ten minutes, and lasts 6-8 hours.  Once sensitized and exposed to the sun a severe rash develops including blistering and discoloration.  The rash is painful and itchy -  you would really prefer not to be exposed!

Avoiding the plant altogether is best, but if you are exposed to the juice of this plant you should wash the area immediately and avoid sun exposure for 6-8 hours by covering up the exposed area or staying indoors.

Wearing long sleeved pants, socks and a long-sleeved shirt will protect you if you are unsure of your plant identification skills.  Staying on the trails will also protect you since you need direct contact with the juice of the plant to cause the rash.

Visit the Arboretum website for more information.  

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.