I Spy in the Sea to Sky!

I Spy in the Sea to Sky!
I Spy in the Sea to Sky!

Hope everyone is excited for this week’s I Spy! Slowly but surely, the season is wrapping up. Not to worry though, we’ve still got lots of mystery weeds for you to identify. With toxins to spare, similar flowers, and a link to the carrot/parsley family, this sly invasive often times gets confused with Giant Hogweed.

Wild Parsnip, also known as “Common Parsnip” or simply “Parsnip”, is a 2 m tall biennial, with umbrella-shaped clusters of small, yellow, green, or white flowers. Its leaves can be identified by their saw-toothed margins, growing in alternating patterns and forming a distinct mitten-shape. This sturdy weed sucks up nutrients with its dense taproot and can spread through rhizomatous propagation.

As a form of cultivated parsnip, this plant’s taproot is a starchy, edible vegetable known to kitchens across the world. Don’t be too quick to harvest this alien invasive though, its leaves, stems, and flowers contain furanocoumarins, which cause blistering of the skin in a phototoxic reaction. After coming into contact with these compounds, exposed areas will become hypersensitive to UV rays, with the painful effects swinging into full force, post-24 hours of exposure, and finally fading around the 72-hour mark.

With each plant capable of producing up to 2000 seeds at maturity, this resilient weed has no problem expanding its range into B.C.’s habitats. These seeds can remain viable in the soil for anywhere between 1-4 years, and spread quickly through wind dispersal, watercourses, or human dispersal – typically in the form of mowing, or hitching a ride on human transportation, oftentimes in the treads of vehicles, bikes, and hiking boots.

A fan of disturbed soils, Wild Parsnip can be found growing along roadsides, railways, hiking/biking trails, and among open meadows. Tough as it may be, this perilous plant has a very low tolerance for shade! Its ecological impacts include forming dense monocultures that outcompete native flora, altering the area’s natural biodiversity, and deterring pollinator species. Not only that, but this ruthless weed can infest agricultural areas and rangelands, contaminating crop yields and reducing forage capacity for other, more livestock-friendly species.

This wicked weed is categorized as “prevent” under SSISC’s Species Priority List for Squamish and Whistler, and “eradicate” for the Pemberton region. That means we have to take extra care to prevent it from spreading into new territories and work diligently to get rid of it once and for all! If you think you’ve spotted Wild Parsnip, report it here or email us at info@ssisc.ca.

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