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Parsnip plant poses health risk

Wild parsnip.

Wild parsnip and cow parsnip are a growing concern across Ontario and can pose a health risk to people and their pets.

Parsnips look like colourful wildflowers but are actually toxic plants. The plant sap contains chemicals that may cause skin and eye irritation, and make the skin prone to severe burning and blistering when exposed to the sun. Symptoms typically occur within 48 hours and consist of painful blisters. Purplish scars may form that last for many years.

Wild parsnip and cow parsnip are currently flowering in Ontario, including in Oshawa. Residents are warned not to touch or pick the flowers from these plants.

The best way to avoid contact is to become familiar with what the plants look like and ensure that children and pets avoid the plants.

Wild parsnip is a tall plant that has yellow flowers and will grow from 0.5 to 1.5 metres.

Cow parsnip is also a tall plant that has larger white flowers. They are mainly found along the edges of parks, open spaces, trails and roadsides. Growth of the plants begin in the spring and lasts through early autumn.