Wild Parsnip. Photo via the City of Ottawa.

PARSNIP GONE WILD: Poisonous plant ‘more than we can handle’ says councillor

On Twitter today, Barrhaven councillor Jan Harder called this year’s  infestation of wild parsnip in Ottawa’s suburbs “more than we can handle” and “far worse than anticipated”. 

Councillor Scott Moffatt tweeted that “you’ll likely see us add more resources in 2016 budget” to combat the weed.  He says this is the first year that the province of Ontario has allowed municipalities to use herbicide to combat wild parsnip.

The yellow weed is a common sight in Stittsville: along roadways, in ditches, along pathways, in the fields. As we reported earlier this week, part of the Rideau Trail south of Kanata has been closed because of the weed.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU SEE THE PLANT?  The Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) calls wild parsnip “a growing concern” and wants residents to report it to Ontario’s Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or report your sighting online at www.eddmaps.org/Ontario. (They advise residents not to touch, cut or collect parts of the plant for identification purposes – just take a photo.)

The MVCA says that wild parsnip was likely brought to North America by European settlers, who grew it for its edible root. Wild populations are thought to be a result of escaped, cultivated plants.

“The problem with wild parsnip is that the plant can form dense stands that outcompete native plants, reducing biodiversity,” says Elizabeth Salter, MVCA’s Invasive Species Community Outreach Liaison.

Hit Squad member Elizabeth Salter is reporting a wild parsnip sighting using the EddMapS Ontario app.  Photo via the MCVA Facebook page.
Hit Squad member Elizabeth Salter is reporting a wild parsnip sighting using the EddMapS Ontario app. Photo via the MVCA Facebook page.


Salter is a summer student based in Carleton Place who’s helping the MVCA as an Invasive Species Community Outreach Liaison. Part of Stittsville is within the Mississippi Valley watershed.

“I’m looking forward to increasing awareness of invasive species in Mississippi Valley watershed and informing the public on what they can do to help stop the spread,” says Salter.

Over the course of the summer, the Invading Species Hit Squad, comprised of about 25 summer students across the province, monitors local lakes, waterways and forests, looking for invasive species such as wild parsnip, zebra mussels, spiny water flea, round goby, giant hogweed, garlic mustard, and other invaders. They will also be engaging their community to increase awareness of invasive species. Funding is being provided by the federal government’s Canada Summer Jobs program.

The public is invited to contact Elizabeth Salter at 613-253-0006 or email her at monitoring@mvc.on.ca.

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One thought on “PARSNIP GONE WILD: Poisonous plant ‘more than we can handle’ says councillor”

  1. Is it just me, or are many of the pictures I’m seeing of “wild parsnip” actually just Golden Alexander?

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