Toxic wild parsnip poses minimal threat
By Molly Moser
On a hot summer day several years ago, Phillip Rausch was trimming with a weed eater in a roadside ditch when he came in contact with a particularly nasty plant. “I didn’t realize the tall yellow stuff was poisonous,” said Rausch. By the time he figured it out, it was too late.
Toxic sap from a wild parsnip plant had touched Rausch’s skin, leaving him with burn-like rashes that lasted the duration of the summer. “Apparently the sun, pollen and sweat weren’t a good combo,” Rausch explained. “The more you're in the sun and heat, the more it blisters and spreads.”
According to the Iowa State University extension, wild parsnip plants contain psoralen, which can cause a condition called phytophotodermatitis. In a 2005 “A Weed to Watch” article, extension officials explained that phytophotodermatitis occurs when plant juice touches skin and the skin is then exposed to sunlight. Redness and rashes are common, but in severe cases, blisters, skin discoloration and burning or scalding pain can occur.
“It finally got so unbearable that I went to a dermatologist. Then, with a strong steroid regimen, it went away after a few weeks,” recalls Rausch. “It’s a miserable little plant. I steer very clear of any signs of it.”
Continued in the pages of The Guttenberg Press