I wrote about the wild parsnip growing at our place a few days ago. I have certainly been aware of it all along but since then I have been hyper aware, even more than I had been. And let me tell you, that stuff is everywhere. Any open field that hasn’t been cut recently is just covered. It is so tall that it drowns out everything else. When I look out over a field that has been taken over, I can’t see much of anything else–no grass, no flowers, no milkweed, no nothin’.
I drove today on the back roads from Hinesburg to Charlotte (which means, well, almost any road from Hinesburg to Charlotte) and there was a clear distinction between hayed fields and those that have been let lie. I saw a couple of fields where large patches had been left uncut. There was a rock or a wet area or some other obstruction to the mower. These were deep in wild parsnip. I mean, invasive species can be pretty aggressive. This one hits home for me. I mean, it really does hit home.
The problem is that the fields become a danger zone. Forget poison ivy. This is worse. Sure ticks are out there, but they are not nearly as likely to be an issue as wild parsnip. I am afraid to send my children out in the field because I do not want them to have chemical burns. Ouch. It is just a plant for chimney’s sake, but it is a ubiquitous and menacing plant.
This stuff has been around for many years, maybe even for over 400 years. It may have been brought here on purpose, as a food source, but no one really knows how it came to North America from Eurasia. It has certainly made itself at home, however. I see tons of it all over the place and, frankly, it creeps me out. Aside from the fact that I am in awe of how any species can be so adaptable and can just make it over other species, I am in awe of its bully-ness and unhappy about it. I guess I need to do what I can to control it in our part of the world and hope conditions for it deteriorate at some point so its presence lessens in the future.
For more good information about this plant you can check out the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center’s page, or the US Forest Services “Weed of the Week” page on it.