DES MOINES, Iowa — The delicate yellow flowers may look pretty, but don’t dare touch them without gloves.
Wild parsnip, also known as poison parsnip, is a common weed found in prairies, fields and along the roadside and bike trails. It resembles Queen Anne’s Lace, but with yellow flowers. The weed grows to about 4 feet tall and typically flowers May through July.
KCCI reported that a woman in Iowa suffered severe burns from the weed, which is growing rapidly in the state after a wet spring. Wendy Prusha was pulling weeds around her home, and hit a patch of wild parsnip. She didn't realize what she had come in contact with until her forearm turned red and began to burn, and broke out with blisters overnight.
If the sap of the wild parsnip plant comes in contact with human skin and is not washed off, it can cause phytophotodermatitis, which makes the skin extremely sensitive to sunlight, leading to rashes and blisters. Experts recommend washing the affected area as soon as possible and staying out of sunlight or covering exposed skin to prevent a burning reaction. Cortisone medication may help reduce symptoms.
The best way to avoid a nasty run-in with the toxic weed is to keep skin covered and wear gloves when gardening.
Wild parsnip can be found throughout most of the U.S., with the exception of Hawaii, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.