We are deep into camping and outdoor fun season. Along with warning about mosquitoes, here's a word of caution about a dangerous plant that you may come across on your outdoor adventures (or chores).

KCCI-TV in Des Moines reports that The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is warning about a poisonous weed spreading in Iowa. Known as Wild Parsnip, the weed's oil can cause blistering and severe burning and itching sensations if it touches skin.

Wild parsnip Flowering from May to July, the non-native wild parsnip plant has lacy, yellow-green heads. If its oil touches the skin and then is exposed to sunlight, painful blisters will develop. Often found in great crowds in road ditches, avoid using a lawn string trimmer to remove it, as you’ll get splattered with broken parsnip tissue and have a high exposure to its toxin. -Iowa DNC

KCCI reports that a Union, IA woman had to visit the ER after being exposed to the weed near her home (full story here). You may not even know you've been exposed until symptoms develop and skin turns red and might blister. The Mayo Clinic recommends treating the affected area with a cool, wet cloth or an emollient. Consult your doctor if the reaction is painful or the blisters are severe or last longer than a couple of weeks.


The plant is found in prairie areas, near roads, in ditches and fields. It can grow nearly four feet tall, with grooved stems and clusters of yellow flowers (More about the plant here). It's an invasive species that has been found in most of the United States, and has spread widely through northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

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