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Wild Parsnip Making a Comeback

By Jerrold Tesmer

Fri, Jul 12th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

By Jerrold Tesmer

Extension Educator for Fillmore/Houston Counties

As I travel through Fillmore and Houston Counties, I have been seeing a lot of wild parsnip. I suspect it is partially due to the wet weather conditions, but may also be partly due to the limited number of days available this spring to control this bothersome plant. It is easily recognized by the five yellow petals. They are found in umbels four to eight inches in diameter at the top of stems and branches.

The reason we are concerned about wild parsnip is the serious irritation to the skin, especially on hot sunny days, resulting in serious blistering, burning, and scars in most people. The best way to prevent any irritation caused by wild parsnip is to stay away from it.

If your skin comes in contact with it, blisters can occur two to five days after exposure to the plant when exposed to the sun. To keep blistering to a minimum shower using soap sparingly to remove all of the plant oil from the skin. Other steps after exposure include avoiding sunlight; apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, if contact with the face see a physician. A rash may last for 14 days; a discoloration of the skin may last for two years.

If this plant finds its way into your yard or ditches, there are a few things you can do. Mow the weed at least three times during the growing season this will reduce the number of seeds it will reproduce. Also be sure to wear protective clothing; which includes long sleeves, and rubber gloves when mowing. After mowing wash the clothes and gloves separately from other laundry.

A Fillmore County study on controlling wild parsnip showed that fall spraying seemed to be the most effective way to control the weed. Spraying in the spring was also effective at killing it, but timing is an issue. The best time being the week when you are busy planting corn. Mowing worked at slowing the plant’s growth and seed production, but successive mowing will be needed to be effective where spraying is not an option.

A combination of cutting this summer to prevent seed from spreading followed by herbicide application in the fall to kill the rosette will diminish the number plants for next year. A number of broadleaf herbicides will work, Escort was successful in the fall here in Fillmore County. I personally have had success using two, 4-D early in the spring when the plant is less than 12 inches tall. The plant is more difficult to control as it matures. Multiple year treatments may be required since seed are viable for up to four years. Fire alone will not control wild parsnip. On the positive side, the efforts to control wild parsnip will also control musk thistle and many other broadleaf weeds.

We do have a small pamphlet at the Fillmore County Extension Office, 507-765-3896, with some additional information.

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