Pastinaca Sativa Wild Parsnip

Invasive Species Warning for Saskatchewan: Wild Parsnip – How to identify it and what to do

(Last Updated On: July 23, 2018)

Rural Municipalities through out Saskatchewan have been warning land owners and residents to be on the lookout for Wild Parsnip after an increase in sightings in Central and southern Saskatchewan, as far north as the ditches along Highway 11 from Saskatoon to Prince Albert.

According a CBC article published July 19, 2018, Chet Neufeld, vice-chair of the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council says, “There are hotspots around Ness Creek, Kipling, and this year, Weyburn. Neufeld said people may see the invasive species as they travel down Highway 11 between Saskatoon and Prince Albert, as well as in the ditch south of Duck Lake.”

Wild parsnip is a noxious weed that is listed under The Weed Control Act. It does cause burns to skin, when the skin comes in contact with the sap of this plant and then is exposed to sunlight.

If a person does come into contact with wild parsnip, it is recommended that they immediately cover the area so that it is not exposed to the sunlight, wash as thoroughly as possible, and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The blisters can take a few days to begin to appear, so it is best to keep the area that was in contact with the sap out of the sun for several days, if possible. The reaction caused by the sap combined with sunlight produces a reaction similar to a chemical burn or an extreme sunburn.

Always consult a medical professional if you believe that you have come in contact with wild parsnip sap, or if you have specific questions about symptoms and treatment.

If you know that you are entering an area where there is wild parsnip, cover all exposed skin and be sure to wash all clothing separately and in hot water to remove the sap. For more information on this plant please go to the following link.…/Wild%20Parsnip.pdf

Source: RM of Torch River Facebook post

If you think you have this plant on your property please contact your local weed inspector or your Rural Municipality office

Weed Inspector for RM of Torch River & RM of Nipawin – Rick Bilokryly


The following information is available in PDF format on the Saskinvasives web site

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) aka Poison Parsnip

SK Provincial Designation: Noxious

Wild parsnip is an invasive herbaceous plant from the carrot/parsley family that is native to Europe and Asia. It was introduced to North America as a culinary plant and has since escaped cultivation. The thick taproot of the wild parsnip is edible, but the sap in the stem, leaves and flowers increases skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light which can result in severe, painful second-degree chemical burns, blisters, rashes and dermatitis. The plant’s chemicals can also reduce weight gain and fertility in livestock that eat it.

Wild parsnip reduces the quality and sale-ability of agricultural forage crops such as hay, oats and alfalfa.

Habitat: Wild parsnip forms dense stands and can be found in sunny, open areas such as prairies and open fields. It can spread quickly on disturbed sites such as abandoned yards, waste dumps, roadsides and rail-way embankments.


  • Roots: The thick, edible taproot is white to pale yellow in color.
  • Leaves: Compact rosettes of leaves grow close to the ground in the first year as the tap-root is developing, and then develops into a flowering plant the next year. The leaves of the mature plant are broad, mitten-shaped and sharply toothed.
  • Stems and Flowers: Erect stalks grow in the second year, up to 1.5 metres tall. The single round stem is grooved and sometimes hairy, and is 2 to 5 centimetres thick. Small yellow flowers form in clusters at the top of the stem. Wild parsnip typically flowers from May to September.
  • Seeds: Wild parsnip reproduces by seed, with each plant capable of producing hundreds seeds that can remain viable in the soil for up to 4 years. The round seeds are straw-colored, flat and winged.

Handling: Wild parsnip produces a chemical in its sap that increases skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light. The potency increases from spring to summer and decreases after seed set. If skin contact is made with the sap from broken stems, leaves or flowers and then is exposed to ultraviolet light (in both cloudy or sunny weather), a reaction occurs that can result in severe and painful second-degree burns, blisters or rashes. The resulting brown skin pigmentation can remain on the skin for years afterwards. If the sap gets into the eyes, it has the potential to cause temporary or permanent blindness.

When working near wild parsnip, it is important to wear gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.

If your skin comes into contact with the plant, immediately cover it until it can be washed with soap and water.

Prevention: Wild parsnip reproduces by seed, and the seeds are easily dispersed by wind and water, but also attached to vehicles, mowers and other equipment. When working in an area that is or has the potential to be infested with wild parsnip or other invasive plants, it is important to clean all vehicles and equipment thoroughly before moving into un-infested areas.

  • Grazing: Wild parsnip affects the skin of animals in a similar way to humans. Invasive plants should not be considered as forage.
  • Mechanical: Seed bank reduction is a beneficial strategy; regardless of what method is used, the goal is to prevent the plants from seeding. Mowing can be effective to prevent seed production if timed appropriately (before seed set) and repeated during the season after re-sprout, or if used in combination with an appropriate herbicide. It is important to clean the mower thoroughly afterwards to remove seeds and toxic sap. Hand-pulling is effective on small infestations but may be difficult due to the thick taproot and the potential for skin reactions. Wear long sleeves and gloves if handling this plant.
  • Chemical: The use of pesticides in any manner not published on the label or registered under the Minor Use of Pesticides regulation constitutes an offence under both the Federal Pest Control Products Act and provincial acts in Saskatchewan. For the latest information on pesticides for agricultural use in Saskatchewan, please consult the provincial Guide To Crop Protection produced annually by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture or consult your local Ministry of Agriculture representative.
  • Biological: The parsnip webworm (Depressaria pastinacella) feeds on wild parsnip flowers and developing seeds; it was first recorded in Ontario, Canada in 1869.

The above information is available in PDF format on the Saskinvasives web site 



Mike Cowbrough of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs

offers tips on how to identify, handle and control wild parsnip.

CBC National – Wild Parsnip 

Feature Image; Pastinaca Sativa Wild Parsnip

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Post Author: Joanne Francis

Joanne Francis is the Editor and Journalist for Nipawin News