The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority

Wild Parsnip

What is Wild Parsnip?

​Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is one of Ontario’s most unwanted invasive plants. 

Wild Parsnip may have been transported to North America for its edible root; however, touching the sap on the plant can cause severe burns!

  • Wild parsnip can grow up to 1.5 m tall. 
  • The single stem is narrow and is smooth with few hairs. 
  • Leaves are mitten shaped that are sharply toothed, and are arranged opposite in pairs. 
  • Flower heads are umbrella shaped and are usually a yellowish green. 
  • Found commonly in disturbed areas like yards, waste dumps, meadows, open fields and roadsides.
Wild Parsnip

Where is Wild Parsnip found in our watershed?

Wild Parsnip is scattered throughout the watershed. Large stands are present along the Mad River valley from Creemore downstream to the Minesing Wetlands. It is also present in the Town of Collingwood where town staff are actively controlling populations along trail systems.

Why is it of concern?

Similar to Giant Hogweed, Wild Parsnip is also given the name poison parsnip because of the toxic sap that causes skin burns if skin exposed to sap is then exposed to direct sunlight.

Also, studies have shown that livestock ingesting Wild Parsnip have reduced weight gain and fertility. Dense stands can outcompete native species in an area thus reducing local biodiversity.

How to control the spread

On your p​roperty:

  • If your property has fewer than 100 plants then manual removal is possible.
  • Remember to wear protective clothing! It is important to wear waterproof gloves, long pants/long-sleeved shirts, and eye protection.
  • Digging out plant and taproot is the ideal method—DO NOT WEEDWHIP since this sprays sap-filled plant material over anyone in close proximity.
  • After removal, remember to wash gloves and dispose of plants in a black plastic bag. Leave the plants in the plastic bag for one week and dispose of in the landfill. Please do not burn or compost the removed plants!
  • If there are large infestations then you will probably need a professional exterminator to chemically control it. For permanent removal, this method will probably have to be repeated for several years.
  • See The Landowner’s Guide to Controlling Invasive Woodland Plants for more information on controlling Wild Parsnip on your property.

When you are enjoying nature:

  • Stay on trails and stay away from areas infested with Wild Parsnip.
  • Remember to clean your shoes after hiking and keep pets on a leash to avoid further spread.

Early detection is key

Early detection and rapid response is essential for the control and/or eradication of invasive species in an area. If you spot Wild Parsnip, please report the sighting to EDDmapS​.

More information

Invasive species on private property

NVCA does not offer a service to remove invasive species on private property.  If you are looking for tips on dealing with invasive species on your property, see the links above, or visit Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program.

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