Wild parsnip is invasive and dangerous to humans. 

June 29, 2022

Second year wild parsnip

Wild parsnip is invasive and dangerous to humans. 

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Wild parsnip rosette

Of the many invasive plants found growing in northern Michigan, wild parsnip is one that people should be sure to avoid. Wild parsnip produces a sap that increases skin sensitivity to sunlight, a trait that is referred to as phyto-phototoxic. If human skin comes into contact with the sap and is then exposed to sunlight, severe rashes and blisters will develop. Based on the danger it presents, the North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (NCCISMA) has identified wild parsnip as a high priority invasive species and is working alongside local conservation districts, road commissions and other partners to keep it from spreading. 

According to the Mason-Lake Conservation District, wild parsnip is currently flowering around the area, making it easy to spot and avoid. The yellow flowers can distinguish wild parsnip from similar looking plants such as Queen Anneís lace and water hemlock, which both have white flowers. It is a biennial plant, which means that it has a two-year growth cycle. First year plants grow low to the ground in the form of a rosette. In its second year, wild parsnip can shoot up to five feet in height and develop a thick, grooved stem (similar to celery) that has large leaves with toothed margins. In the late spring, second year wild parsnip produces cluster of tiny yellow flowers that grow in an umbrella shape. 

Wild parsnip can often be found growing in open, sunny areas including roadsides and fields. It can quickly invade disturbed land, displacing native plant species. This invasive plant was first discovered in Osceola County in 2015 and has continued to spread. NCCISM’s coverage area includes Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Osceola, and Wexford counties.

Wild parsnip leaf

NCCISMA needs assistance in reporting wild parsnip in Mason County. Reporting wild parsnip helps NCCISMA know where infestations are and prevents the population from spreading. Wild parsnip and other invasive plants can be reported to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) by either visiting www.misin.msu.edu or by downloading the MISIN app on a mobile device. Observations can also be reported to the Mason-Lake Conservation District by calling 231-757-3707 ext 5. 

For assistance identifying wild parsnip or for guidance on how to treat it, contact NCCISMA. NCCISMA has a strike team available for hire to treat high priority species, including wild parsnip. For more information or to request a free quote, call 248-210-6047 or email zach.peklo@macd.org. 

Those choosing to treat wild parsnip on their own are advised to wear protective clothing and gloves to avoid contact with the plant’s sap. 

For more information about NCCISMA, visit www.NorthCountryInvasives.org or contact NCCISMAís Program Coordinator at 231-429-5072 or email vicki.sawicki@macd.org.



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