Watch out for wild parsnip

A message from the Mason-Lake Conservation District

Of the many invasive plants found growing in Northern Michigan, wild parsnip is one that people should be sure to avoid.

Emma Costantino with the North County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area is warning residents to stay clear of this invasive plant.

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.

Because of the danger it presents, the NCCISMA has identified wild parsnip a high priority invasive species and is working to keep it from spreading.

Wild parsnip 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 develops a thick, grooved stem similar looking to celery. It also has large leaves with toothed margins.

In the late spring, usually late June to July in Mason County, second-year wild parsnip produces cluster of tiny yellow flowers that grow in an umbrella shape.

The yellow flowers can distinguish wild parsnip from similar looking plants such as Queen Anne’s Lace and water hemlock, which both have white flowers.

By September, most yellow flowers seen are usually goldenrod, but leaves of wild parsnip can still be found.

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 NCCISMA’s coverage area in Osceola County in 2015 and has continued to spread to other areas within the coverage area which includes Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Osceola and Wexford counties.

NCCISMA needs your help reporting wild parsnip in Mason County. Reporting wild parsnip helps NCCISMA know where infestations are and prevent the population from spreading.

Wild parsnip and other invasives can be reported to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network by visiting misin.msu.edu or by downloading the MISIN app on your phone.

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.

If you choose to treat wild parsnip on your own, be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves to avoid contact with the plant’s sap.

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