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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Do you have any information on Poison Parsnip?


QUESTION:
I am in search of information on Poison Parsnips. I live in Wisconsin and I know it is quite common. However, I do not know what it looks like. Can you direct me to any information on how to recognize this plant.

ANSWER:

Gosh, there are many poison plants related to parsnips, and I am not sure which ones you mean. Parsnips themselves can sometimes cause a nasty rash and their close relative the Giant Hogweed can do so to the extent that it can send you to the doctor. It really hurts. Other members of the parsnip family are deadlier. Poison hemlock (Conium species especially macculatum)can kill when eaten in sufficient amounts and Water Hemlock (Cicuta species) kills if eaten in very small amounts. It is frequently mistaken for an edible plant by people. If you cut the root of water hemlock open, you will notice it has several chambers stacked vertically and often a yellowish oily substance oozes out. But not always. Sometimes the chambers are hard to discern - depends on plant maturity. Poison hemlock does not have the chambers in its root. I hope this helps. best to get a good book for your area The Peterson's Guide series (yes the bird book people) put out a super paperback for this purpose, "Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants". As a rule, I don't eat weeds. it is not worth the risk!