Beware Wild Parsnip
(Photo by John Cardina, Ohio State University)
Summer activities expose us to many “not so nice” things that Mother Nature has to offer – bee stings, poison ivy, thorns, and sunburn. Skin irritations or rashes are usually diagnosed as poison ivy if one has recently been in a wooded area. Poison ivy plants are relatively easy to identify and pretty common in our area. Giant hogweed is another rash-causing plant that has been in the news a lot lately. It is easy to identify because of its size, but it is somewhat rare.
Another more common plant that causes an itchy rash is wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa). It is so common that you probably see it every day in the summer along roadsides and in disturbed areas. It is a noxious weed and highly invasive. It out-competes native plants and develops into large monocultures. In sensitive individuals contact with the plant will lead to serious skin irritation.
Wild parsnip plants can be up to 6 feet tall. They have a flower cluster that looks like a Queen Anne’s lace flower, but the flowers are greenish yellow, not white. The flat-topped cluster, or umbel, can be 2 to 6 inches across. It is in flower from late June through July in our area. The compound leaves grow alternately on the stem. The leaves have 2 to 5 paired leaflets that are sharply toothed.
A perennial that reproduces by seed, wild parsnip is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced here in the 1600’s. The plant spends several years as a rosette of leaves; then it bolts, flowers and dies. In high summer you will see it everywhere if you look for the yellow flowers. In parts of the SLELO region it is continuous on the roadsides.
Wild parsnip is a member of the Umbel-liferae (apiaceae) family, which includes other toxic plants such as giant hogweed and poison hemlock. It also includes food plants, herbs and spices: carrot, celery, parsnip, dill, parsley, coriander, caraway, anise, cumin, lovage and myrrh. The non-native, ubiquitous wild flower Queen Anne’s lace is also in this family.
If skin comes in contact with wild parsnip a rash will develop in most people. The plant sap contains psoralens which are chemicals that make the skin sensitive to sunlight. Burn-like lesions will develop within 24 hours of exposure; fluid filled blisters develop after 48 hours. The area will be painful and itchy. After these symptoms subside brown pigmentation of the area and scarring may persist for several months. The plant causes a phytophototoxic reaction and affected areas can remain sensitive to sunlight for many years.
Wild parsnip populations can be con-trolled with herbicides. Foliar applications of
glyphosate work best if applied to the rosette stage in the early spring or late fall. Keep in mind that glyphosate kills all plants. Keep it away from desirable plants in the area; read and follow the product label instructions completely. Several years of treatment may be necessary to bring large populations under control. Continue to scout the area for new plants that may develop from latent seeds. Manual or mechanical methods of control are not recommended because they will expose the operator to the plant sap and spread the seeds. If you must get near the plants use gloves, protective clothing and eye protection.
~Sue Gwise, CCE Jefferson County
Eradicating Giant Hogweed
Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazziamum) is one of the most notorious invasive species to enter our region. The sap produced by hogweed, combined with sunlight, creates a photosensitive reaction on human skin which can cause serious burns and blisters and possible scarring. Introduced in the early 1900’s by intrigued botanists, the plant has spread throughout New York State and the northeastern United States.
Fortunately and due to the biology of this plant, partners of the SLELO PRISM believe that it is possible to eradicate local populations of Giant Hogweed. The plant, which produces only basil stems during the first two years of growth, reaches maturity and produces a long stalk (bolt) at about its third growing season. This bolt produces a seed head (umbel) and after producing an average of 20,000 seeds, the parent pant then dies. What this means for managers is that it is possible, given the appropriate treatment, to eradicate hogweed plant populations.
SLELO PRISM Partners have joined forces to collaborate on efforts to eradicate hogweed from at least four of the five counties within our PRISM with no sightings yet reported in St. Lawrence County. Across New York State other partners continue to work towards mutual eradication of Giant Hogweed. The SLELO Rapid Response team works each year to control hogweed plants using multiple techniques. A site where plants exists and are treated, is not considered eradicated unless there is no new growth of hogweed plants for a minimum of three consecutive years. In the SLELO PRISM region, our partners have successfully eradicated fourteen sites.
Partners Prepare for Productive Season
Collaboration is a great thing, especially when it comes to managing invasive species for the purpose of protecting our regions natural areas, biological diversity and eco-nomic assets. Our tag line is “Teaming up to stop the spread of invasive species” and that’s exactly what the SLELO PRISM partners will focus on during 2015.
By working together throughout the five county Eastern Lake Ontario region, our partners anticipate a robust season focused on meeting our PRISM’s seven strategic goals; prevention, early detection/rapid response, cooperation, information management, control, restoration and education/outreach. Many activities will take place on a PRISM-wide scale, other activities will focus on our PRISM’s priority conservation areas. Partners will also be working on independent projects targeted towards invasive species management along with tentative special projects sponsored by the PRISM. Combined, these efforts offer a collaborative approach targeting invasive species prevention, management and habitat restoration.
Our Education & Outreach Committee is getting an early start by scheduling the following events which are open to the public;
June 10 – Eastern Lake Ontario Invasive Species Symposium. Co-sponsored by Selkirk Shores State Park and Douglaston Salmon Run. Contact Shelby Alavekios at: firstname.lastname@example.org for details and registration information TBA.
July 11 – Port Ontario Citizen Science Event. Co-sponsored by our partners at the Oswego County Soil & Water Conservation District. Contact Shelby Alavekios at: email@example.com for details.
Partners of the SLELO PRISM continue to make progress towards the objectives and goals of our Strategic Plan. By working collaboratively we achieved the following in 2014:
Our partners continued efforts to restore the Salmon River and Salmon River Estuary by suppressing 86% of Japanese Knotweed populations and began restoration work by planting native grasses within the disturbed areas along the river corridor.
Our partners have significantly reduced the human health threats posed by Giant Hogweed by treating 61 sites and completely eradicating 14 sites.
We continued to restore over 50 acres of globally rare Alvar communities along the Eastern Lake Ontario coastline by suppressing Pale Swallow-wort and promoting native succession.
We have teamed up to protect our freshwater resources, wetlands and fens by supporting hands-on citizen science based control efforts, pathway mitigation and environmental DNA sampling. This includes hand-harvesting of 85.5 cubic yards of water chestnut plants and treating an additional 215 acres on the Oswego River.
Encouraged the development of biological controls for Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) and Pale Swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum).
Assisted with the release of a biological control (Galarucella spp.) to suppress purple loosestrife and maintain the native plant composition of the Lakeview Wetland complex.
Together we have completed early detection surveillance on ten priority conservation areas along with one rapid response to pale swallow-wort on the Limerick Cedars preserve.
Through a collaborative effort we reached over 550 individuals through a combination of educational and outreach initiatives targeted at invasive species that affect our forests, lands and waters.
Nice Work Partners!
Land Disturbance & Terrestrial Invasive Species
On my daily drive to and from work I have often noticed a relatively small patch of Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) in the southeast corner of a nearby intersection. My previous disregard stems only from the fact that this small patch does not lay within one of our PRISM’s identified priority conservation areas (PCA’s).
In a more recent drive by of this same site, I noticed a small bulldozer clearing, or should I say grading the land. The topsoil, about 20 cubic yards was being staged along the south end of the lot and being that the entire site was covered with knotweed, certainly the topsoil was full of seeds and cuspidatum propagules.
After pondering the demise of the topsoil throughout the workday, I toyed with the idea of stopping after work to inquire as to what plans they had for the topsoil, after all topsoil is a sought after commodity. Too late, all the equipment and topsoil were nowhere to be seen.
Often overlooked in our discussions of invasive species pathways and mitigation is the idea of land clearing and infrastructure development, even on a small scale, and the translocation of topsoil contaminated with invasive plant fragments and/or seeds. I assume that the aforementioned “spoil” was used elsewhere to fill a need.
Let’s extrapolate using another species known for its high seed production (pale Swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum). At 2,000 seeds per square yard multiplied against an average 550 cubic yards per acre of topsoil, that suggests 1,100,000.00 seeds translocated per acre of contaminated topsoil.
In cooperation with our Canadian friends of the Ontario Invasive Plant Council, the SLELO PRISM Education & Outreach Committee will soon be pursuing a clean equipment protocol initiative that educates heavy equipment operators and will hopefully serve to identify contaminated topsoil and its translocation as a significant pathway for the spread of terrestrial invasive species. Identifying the need to manage contaminated topsoil is a good beginning, but must be followed with best management practice recommendations along with incentives to implement such practices.
The PRISM partners are confident that this initiative will serve to educate developers, engineers and heavy equipment operators on the need to better manage this pathway.
Rob Williams, PRISM Coordinator
Salmon River Initiative
The Salmon River, located along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, is a valuable cultural and natural resource worthy of protection from the habitat-altering impacts of invasive species. As a cultural resource, the Salmon River is a multi-million dollar fishery hosting in excess of 100,000 angler visitors annually. Angling enthusiasts travel from numerous regions across the United States and Canada, as well as from throughout the world, to fish the river. Many local businesses thrive as a result of this cultural resource. The Salmon River is also an integral part of Lake Ontario ecosystem linking it directly to the overall Great Lakes whole system. Unfortunately, the increasing dominance of Japanese knotweed, an aggressive invasive plant present within the Salmon River corridor, has the potential to negatively impact the economic and ecological values of the Salmon River and Salmon River Estuary.
Partners of the SLELO-PRISM have endorsed a strategic initiative to restore and protect the estuary and river which involves three components to include; 1) Suppression of Japanese Knotweed over the course of a minimum of three years using a stem injection technique as the primary control strategy. 2) Native plant restoration, which includes promoting natural regrowth and intentional plantings and 3) Education and outreach to occur as an on-going and important project component. Partners are confident that this project will benefit the natural processes and the ecological integrity of this magnificent resource.
Anglers and Conservationists – please help!
1. Learn to identify the Japanese Knotweed plant – (refer to the “Species in the SLELO Region” menu item on this website – top of page)
2. Don’t walk through, trample, cut or otherwise disturb knotweed patches—this plant spreads primarily by germinating plant fragments, you will only spread the seeds and plant fragments which will worsen the problem.
Background on SLELO
Invasive species pose a serious ecological and economic threat in the St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario region of New York and indeed the entire state.
The St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership For Regional Invasive Species Management (SLELO PRISM) was formed in 2005 to combat the spread of invasives and mitigate associated threats. Our overall mission is to protect the natural and cultural integrity of aquatic and terrestrial areas in Jefferson, Oswego, Oneida, St. Lawrence, and Lewis counties from invasive species. Formally recognized by the state in 2011, our PRISM has made tremendous progress towards the prevention of new species and the management of existing species within the PRISM.
SLELO provides region-wide coordination for invasive species monitoring and management across the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within our 7,600-square mile PRISM region.
SLELO partners promote prevention, early detection and rapid response of invasive species through development and dissemination of educational materials and programs, documentation of species distributions, promotion of integrated habitat management strategies, and builds consensus for resource protection through partnerships with residents, institutions and agencies. Hosted by the Central Western NY Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the SLELO PRISM has and continues to make significant progress towards invasive species management by utilizing the support and expertise of our partners.
- From early detection to rapid response and education, SLELO shares several goals with our PRISM partners.
- To focus immediate priorities, we have targeted several invasive species.
- We engage in several Projects & Activities throughout the SLELO region.
Invasive Species Program Coordinaator Rob Williams, has engaged and rallied the SLELO partnership in a strong and focussed way, one which will certainly help our PRISM to achieve our goals and objectives.