Wild parsnip is an invasive plant that is increasingly common within the City of Ottawa in areas of uncultivated land, roadside ditches, nature trails, as well as on and surrounding rural and residential properties. Wild Parsnip may pose a health risk to humans. 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. The blisters typically occur one to two days after contact with the plant. This can result in long-term scarring of the skin. The best way to avoid contact with Wild Parsnip is to become familiar with what the plant looks like so you do not accidentally get burned.
You can find more information including how to identify wild parsnip, how to avoid wild parsnip, and how to report wild parsnip on City property on the City website <click here>. Residents can also contact the Ottawa Public Health Information Line (613-580-6744) for more information about the health impacts of wild parsnip.
May 15, 2016 Update
Staff have chosen a number of parkland locations for treatment. The contractor will use a combination of boom spraying (hydro corridors maintained by the City) and spot spraying.
Click on the links below to load maps. Location of treatment is marked in red.
Previous Update on the City of Ottawa 2015 Wild Parsnip Strategy:
The City of Ottawa proactively started tracking wild parsnip along roadways in 2014 before the weed was declared noxious. In January of 2015, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMFRA) declared wild parsnip a noxious weed, which prompted the Public Works Department to develop a strategy to control its spread. The 2015 Wild Parsnip Strategy was developed as a pilot project based on the data gathered since 2014 with the goal of testing the effectiveness of both herbicide application and mowing.
The pilot involved herbicide applications to over 260 km of roadsides and several select areas of park land. The pilot herbicide application is complete and locations with targeted mowing are ongoing. At this time the information gathered from OMFRA as well as the City’s contracted agronomist have confirmed that herbicide application is more effective in the spring and in the fall on juvenile plants. Additional roadside cutting is currently underway and additional herbicide application will be considered for the fall.
Based on early results of our 2015 Wild Parsnip Strategy, it appears that any area that is regularly maintained, such as parkland, has little wild parsnip. Along pathways, because staff cut on either sides of the trail, anyone who goes beyond the areas maintained would be doing so at their own risk. This would also apply to small or passive pathways that we do not officially maintain. Having said that, the City is taking action whenever they find locations close to public use that are highly infested. For the remainder of the summer, the City is posting signage or increasing cutting if possible. (I am in contact with the City on the RRCK trails, and the Hydro Corridor).
Wild parsnip, for the most part, will begin to dry up in August; the sap from the plant contains the chemical, so if residents do not break the plant there is less chance to potentially get a reaction. The best method is to avoid the plant.
At this point, the plant will begin dropping seeds, a stage at which enhanced mowing can work against the strategy to control the plant as there is a risk of spreading the seed.
Due to the reduced effectiveness of increased cutting at this point in the plants maturity and to minimize the spread of wild parsnip seeds, only regular mowing in parks and along roadsides will continue for the remainder of the season.
The City is working with Public Health to develop a flyer that will be given out to residents at community fairs and events to help them identify wild parsnip. Information will also be shared electronically with school aged children and their parents when school resumes this fall. Corporate Communications also issues messages frequently via Social Media to identify and stay away from the weed.
In addition to the installation of caution signs, the Public Works Department has also developed an awareness post card that will be distributed at public events such as fall fairs. The awareness postcard will also be distributed to City partners such as School Boards, Ottawa Public Health and staff. A copy can be downloaded here: Wild Parsnip Postcard – Carte postale sur le panais sauvage