Jim Kelso

Wild Parsnip Caution

I had an encounter with wild parsnip (Pastinica sativa) Identification Key  September 4th in the field by the parking lot for Chickering Bog, at the corner of Lightening Ridge and George roads in Calais VT.

Not knowing much about this plant, I had contact without knowing I had brushed it. I know a lot more now. Not everyone is so sensitive.

It contains furocoumarins which cause phyto-photo-dermatitis or plant-sun-skin inflammation. When you get the plant juice on you, the rash does not begin until it is activated by sunlight. In my case I was not aware I had contacted the plant and went out the next day (Sep. 5th Labor Day) and got lots of sunshine. A couple spots started to develop that day. I’d also had time to spread the juice further around my body with contact on my clothes, hands, camera case , steering wheel etc.

The photos will tell a thousand word story. The rash continued to get worse over 9-10 days. I took a short course of Prednisone augmented by various herbal treatments topically and internally. I will not be specific as you should contact your health care professionals. Treatment is for 2nd degree burns and is not the same as for poison ivy although there may be some overlap.

I also do not have enough praise for our local herbalists who have a wealth of knowledge and experience. I highly recommend cultivating and utilizing this branch of health-care options.

Please note that if you have a serious reaction and it gets in your eyes, there is a risk of blindness.

I am including photos of the plants around the area mentioned above. The plants shown are on the road but you can see others in the field. Also, at the time of contact the plants were seeding and mostly brown on top with green stems. Obviously still quite potent. I have not see a lot of this plant around, but I would highly recommend becoming familiar with it. It seems to be restricted to open fields and road-sides. The upside is that learning to identify even a single new plant enhances your relationship with habitat in manifold ways.

I am healed now.

These are the best websites I found with more information and photos of various stages of growth.

New York Invasive Species


Wisconsin Natural Resources


Happy hiking!











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