Dangerous plant spreading in our area

By Scott Sasina

August 6, 2014 Updated Aug 6, 2014 at 6:35 PM EST

Town of Dickinson, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Wild Parsnip is an invasive plant showing up more and more in the Greater Binghamton area. The effects it can cause if touched are not only painful, but gruesome to look at.

Wild Parsnip is similar to the Hogweed plant found in many Pennsylvania areas.

"It causes severe burning, blistering and scarring, which can last over a year. And you definitely don't want to get it in your eyes because it potentially could cause either temporary, or maybe even permanent blindness," said Kevin Mathers, resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County.

Mathers showed Action News certain specimens of Wild Parsnip on Wednesday, as well as tips on how to identify it.

He said many people get it confused with other plants, such as Queen Anne's Lace, which is nonthreatening to humans.

According to Mathers, there are a few key things to look out for when identifying Wild Parsnip.

The first is the plant's height. Wild Parsnip should be five to six feet tall, according to Mathers.

The second component to look for is tiny clusters of seeds growing at the stem of the plant.

Mathers said if you are exposed to this plant, or come in contact with its sap, there isn't much you can do to help the wounds.

"Once the burn develops, you've already been exposed to sunlight, you've got the sap on your skin, there's not much that is going to reverse that. There are some things you can do just like you treat a sunburn to lessen the burning sensation, but the scarring can last and there's not much you can do about that," said Mathers.

Mathers believes the main reason for the boom in the WIld Parnsip population locally is all of the construction along the highways.

"When the crews are out cutting the weeds on the road side, and doing other roadside work with their equipment, I think the highway departments are spreading it, and they can't avoid it. It's not really their fault," said Mathers.

Mathers went on to say it can be controlled if the plant is dug up by the roots or consistently sprayed with a herbicide.