They look harmless enough, but wild parsnips are causing some serious skin damage this season across the Midwest.
The yellow blooming plants—they look like wildflowers and the actual vegetable part that grows in the ground is edible—secrete a sap that’s akin to poison ivy, but has the ability to cause a chemical burn and painful blisters. Some people who were exposed to it also reported scarring that lasted for a few years.
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According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the plants flower from May to July, and have lacy, yellow-green heads. “If its oil touches the skin and then is exposed to sunlight, painful blisters will develop. It doesn’t matter if the plant is flowering or not—avoid contact with it at all times. Often found in great crowds in road ditches, avoid using a lawn string trimmer to remove it, as you’ll get splattered with broken parsnip tissue and have a high exposure to its toxin. Like poison ivy, wash off as soon as possible after exposure. Prevention is also key here—wear long sleeves and pants, and avoid contact with the plant.”
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