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What is Wild Parsnip?

I have this irrational fear that one day when I’m hiking that I’ll get lost in the woods and have to identify what plants and berries are dangerous for me to live off of or not. Like I said, irrational.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is helping ease my fears and maybe some of yours by warning us of a posionus plant that grows nation wide, but is widespread throughout New York. Have you ever heard of Wild Parsnip? Neither did I until last night when the DEC posted this to their Facebook page:

At first the plant looked like the popular decorative flower Baby’s Breath, but after reading the post I realized this one was a little more dangerous. According to the DEC Wild Parsnip grows along roadsides, in fields and in pastures, like most plants. However, Wild Parsnip contains a sap that has the chemical “furanocoumarins.” If you come in contact with this sap it could cause your skin to become extra sensitive to ultraviolet light. The sap according to the DEC “can cause sever burns within 24 to 48 hours” and ” can also cause discoloration of the skin and increased sensitivity to sunlight that may last for years.”

If you happen to come across Wild Parsnip the DEC urges you to report it by emailing them at and if you happen to come in contact with the plan follow these instructions:

  • Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, and keep it covered for at least 48 hours to prevent a reaction.
  • If a reaction occurs, keep the affected area out of sunlight to prevent further burning or discoloration, and see a physician.

For more details on Wild Parsnip visit DEC.NY.GOV.

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