Keep on an eye out for Wild Parsnip this spring!

Residents are reminded to keep an eye out for Wild Parsnip this spring. 

Wild Parsnip is a hazardous weed that is commonly found within the City of Ottawa in areas of uncultivated land, roadside ditches, nature trails, as well as surrounding rural and residential properties.  Wild Parsnip can reproduce at a very rapid rate and can then be spread to adjacent areas by the wind.   It sometimes goes by the name poisonous parsnip, and it is part of the carrot/parsley family.  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.

Wild Parsnip is a highly branched plant, with hollow green stems.  The compound leaves are green and dense growing.  The yellow flowers are in clusters of up to 20 cm across.  The plant can grow to a height of 0.5 to 1.5 meters.  It is a biennial plant, reproducing only by seed.  

Recorded incidents of Wild Parsnip have increased in Ottawa over the last three years.  It is possible to control wild parsnip through early identification and mechanically cutting the plant below the surface of the soil.  Do not burn or compost wild parsnip plants that have been dug up.

Wild Parsnip may pose a health risk to people.  The plant sap contains chemicals that will cause skin irritation and make the skin prone to severe burning and blistering when exposed to the sun.   The best way to avoid contact with wild parsnip is to become familiar with what the plant looks like.  When working outside in your garden, field or lawn, always wear protective clothing, including gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants and eye protection.  Do not allow children to play in areas infected with wild parsnip.

When found on farmland, Wild Parsnip may reduce the quality of forage crops such as hay, oats and alfalfa, and it may affect the quality of health of livestock animals that may ingest it.

The City of Ottawa will continue to monitor the incidence of Wild Parsnip and, work within approved funding and resources to align grass cutting cycles with the maturation cycle of the plant. 

Find out more about Wild Parsnip at or in attachment below.

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