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Wild Parsnip, toxic plant that can cause 3rd degree blisters, sighted in Utah

Wild Parsnip, picture via Taun Beddes

SANTAQUIN — A flowering wild plant that can cause 3rd degree burns has been sighted in Utah.

Michelle Saxey says she fell victim to the plant last year while weeding in shorts and sandals.

“Two days later I came down with horrible blisters from my thigh down to my ankle,” Saxey said.

Picture: Michelle Saxey

She said the blisters lasted about a week, and she still has scars.

“It just is the most unbelievable pain you could imagine,” Saxey said. “Anything could not come in contact with the skin. I couldn’t even shower. I had to hold my leg out and just shower on the one side.”

Saxey’s husband, a horticulturist, identified the plant as wild parsnip- an identification that USU horticulturist Taun Beddes confirmed.

According to a Cornell University website,Wild Parsnip can be found in most U.S. states, and is closely related to the common kitchen plant, parsnip.

Wild parsnip

“While wild Parsnip roots are edible, the plant produces a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers and fruits that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days,” said the website, “Affected areas can remain discolored and sensitive to sunlight for up to two years, similar to but not as severe as contact with giant hogweed.”

Hogweed is the plant that resurfaced in Virginia this spring, and recently made national news for it’s poisonous sap.

Beddes said while the root of wild parnsips are technically edible, the rest of the plant makes it difficult to cultivate.

“For me, it’s not worth the effort to try to get wild parsnip. If folks want to pull it, they should cover up,” he said.”For the best success, I would spray it [with weed killer] in late September.”

Wild Parsnip, picture via Taun Beddes

Contact your local extension office for more specific advice to get rid of the plant.