These two invasive plants can 'kill you or make you wish you were dead'

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 27, 2019

Researchers at Ohio State University have issued warnings for two invasive weeds that can kill humans in some cases.

“Poison hemlock can kill you while wild parsnip may make you wish you were dead,” the authors wrote in an article posted on the university’s Buckeye Yard and Garden Online website.

Excessive rainfall in Ohio has caused both poison hemlock and wild parsnip to thrive in the southern part of the state. Though the researchers issued the warnings to Ohioans, the National Park Service says poison hemlock can grow in nearly every state in the continental US, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation says wild parsnip is "common" in both the United States and Canada.

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Poison hemlock and wild parsnip are invasive plants commonly found growing side by side, according to Joe Boggs and Erik Draper from Ohio State University.

To avoid health complications, do not touch either plant.

1 Poison Hemlock 1 - JB.jpg<div class="Figure-credit" itemprop="author">Joe Boggs

Poison hemlock has toxic compounds that can lead to respiratory failure and in some cases death in mammals. It’s possible to have the toxins enter the body through the eyes or nasal passages.

Wild parsnip has sap that has psoralens in it — naturally occurring organic compounds that can kill skin cells that protect people from ultraviolet radiation. When the sap touches the body, it can cause blisters and symptoms resembling symptoms from a burn. Symptoms typically take 24 hours to manifest and peak around 72 hours after initial contact with the skin.

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Both plants are part of the carrot family and both feature short flower stalks growing out of a “common point like ribs on an umbrella.” Both plants are called biennial weeds, meaning it takes around two years for them to grow seeds.

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Poison hemlock has small white flowers while wild parsnip has yellow flowers. Wild parsnip has a thick, grooved greenish-yellow stem and celery-like leaves.

Poison helmock has bluish-green leaves and parsley-like leaves with short points.

Both plants can grow over 8 to 10 feet tall.

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Compounding the issue, these plants look similar to other benign plants such as Queen Anne’s lace or garden angelica.

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Managing the invasive plants is becoming more of a problem, but "there may still be time to reduce infestations in the central or north parts of the state."

It's not just as simple as cutting them down, though — the plants are incredibly resilient. Even after having been cut down, mature flowers on these plants can still produce seeds.

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This story was originally published by WEWS .