Iowa residents warned to avoid poisonous wild parsnip - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa residents warned to avoid poisonous wild parsnip

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Iowans are being warned to watch out for a dangerous plant in full bloom. The DNR is warning to stay away from wild parsnip-a plant usually found in ditches with lacy yellow flowers.

The top of the plant is yellow, and it has wider leaves at the bottom. Parsnip typically grows very tall and you can usually find it in ditches because it loves sunlight. 

Black Hawk County Conservation Board Educator Katie Shelton says the danger is when the plant comes into contact with your skin. 

"It is nasty to get into," said Shelton. "It's the sap on the plant that actually causes the reaction on your skin. It causes Phytophotodermatitis, so that means once the sap comes into contact with your skin it reacts with the UV light from the sun. It causes blisters, and boils, and a lot of scarring."

When the plant comes into contact with your skin, it makes it extremely sensitive to sunlight, causing blisters. 

Shelton says parks like George Wyth aren't a big concern. 

"Parks that are in the country, or are near ditches or old farmsteads-that's really where the hazards come into play," said Shelton. "For example, Hickory Hills in La Porte City, when you enter the park that's when you can see some, but not the woodlands-it needs sunlight."

Most are unfamiliar with wild parsnip, and what it looks like. However, Shelton says those who plan on being outdoors should know what the plant looks like. 

Liz Freeman, who frequents the trails with her family, says she'll now be adding another thing to watch out for. 

"We try to stay on the path though because we worry about poison ivy and my kids getting it on them," said Freeman. 

Shelton says the conservation board has been working to contain the wild parsnip. 

"What we've done is in some of our county parks, we have purchased a goat herd so our goats eat through it-they don't have a problem with it," said Shelton.  "They eat it all so we're not spreading seeds like a mower would."

Experts say if you do come into contact with the plant, to wrap up the area immediately to protect it from sunlight. 

Shelton says the plant is dangerous, and if it does touch your skin, it can have lasting affects on your scar tissue up to two years later.

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