Letter to the editor: A nasty weed

A nasty weed

Hello there Banner. I am writing you all a short note to point out an omission I have been painfully made aware of concerning a certain invasive plant growing literally everywhere you look in our lovely green state. I have been a resident here for going on 14 years and to tell the truth, never even gave much thought to coming in contact with any of the harmful plant species, having been able to identify them since my Boy Scout days. I read The Banner from cover to cover, it being the only game in town for AM entertainment, and have seen on occasion an article or two on gardening and maybe even a mention of the poisonous varieties of the wild. Recently I read about a pretty large sum of money being spent on the eradication of a couple of non-natives that are going crazy here, the names of which escape me right now. But nowhere in all the articles I've read have I ever seen one word written about what is without a doubt the most harmful plant to humans that I personally have been made aware of, wild parsnip! I found out the hard way what this nefarious plant can do to a persons skin when after mowing and weeding my yard, I felt little prickly spots on my right arm, followed in a few hours by clusters of blisters all along the inside of my arm, palm to armpit! I scrubbed with soap followed by alcohol and whatever else I could throw at it, to no avail. The next day the blisters had doubled in size, number and redness as well as being like pockets of needles, stabbing inward. A visit outside to look for poisonous plants was to no avail, but I did run into my neighbor who took one look at my arm and said, "wild parsnip, bad stuff!" A visit to the doctor and 10 days of massive steroid doses have finally started to return my arm to normalcy, but according to the literature, it can take up to a year for the redness to heal and scarring is possible! Come to find out that the reaction that causes all this is unlike regular contact dermatitis in that it is a phyto/photo dermatitis caused when UV light energizes the furocoumarins present in the sap of this nasty weed. When you realize that something is wrong, you've had it, welcome to a long period of misery where you look like your skin is rotting off. My doctor at first thought it might be shingles, and we all know how ugly they can get!

So, I guess this turned into a little longer than a few sentences, but I'm thinking your gardener article writer could maybe put a picture of this nasty thing in a future article and save someone the unpleasantness and possible scarring encounter with wild parsnip. I heard form another neighbor that there is a rumor that this weed was planted along the highways because the deer hate it and it helps keep them off the road! It certainly seems possible because a drive down route 7 is like going through a field of the stuff. And if deer don't want to have anything to do with it, why are humans not being made aware of the consequences? Thanks for your time.

— Rick Schultz Arlington


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