Wild parsnip is an invasive plant native to Europe and Asia. It was likely brought to North America by European settlers, who grew it for its edible root. Since its introduction, wild parsnip has escaped from cultivated gardens and spread across the continent.
Wild parsnip roots are edible, but the sap of the plant can cause severe burns. Collecting the plant from the wild should only be done with extreme care. See the section Protective Clothing below.
Wild parsnip, which is also known as poison parsnip, is a member of the carrot/parsley family. It typically grows a low, spindly rosette of leaves in the first year while the root develops. In the second year it flowers on a tall stalk and then dies. The plant can form dense stands and spreads quickly in disturbed areas such as abandoned yards, waste dumps, meadows, open fields, roadsides and railway embankments. Its seeds are easily dispersed by wind and water, and on mowing or other equipment.
Like giant hogweed and other members of the carrot family, it produces sap containing chemicals that can cause human skin to react to sunlight, resulting in intense burns, rashes or blisters.
Impacts of Wild Parsnip
- The plant can form dense stands that outcompete native plants, reducing biodiversity.
- Stem, leaves, and flowers contain chemicals that can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and cause severe dermatitis.
- Wild parsnip reduces the quality and saleability of agricultural forage crops such as hay, oats, and alfalfa.
- Chemical compounds in the plant are known to reduce weight gain and fertility in livestock that eat it.
How to Identify Wild Parsnip
- Grows up to 1.5 metres tall.
- The single green stem is two to five centimetres thick and smooth with few hairs.
- Compound leaves are arranged in pairs, with sharply toothed leaflets that are shaped like a mitten.
- Yellowish green flowers form umbrella-shaped clusters 10 to 20 centimetres across.
- Seeds are flat and round.
Plant Protection Products