Parsnip plant

What does it look like?

 Why is it dangerous?

Handling the parsnip plant (Pastinaca sativa), which grows wild and is cultivated in gardens in allotments may make your skin very sensitive to light leading to burning, blisters and a painful rash.

The problem seems to be the plant’s sap which contains chemicals called furoumarins. These chemicals are absorbed by the skin and can then react with sunlight to cause skin inflammation.

How can I avoid it?

What to do: watch out for wild parsnip in roadside ditches and along railway tracks.

What to do if it stings me?

If you develop skin irritation or blisters after touching parsnip plants, speak to your doctor.

Extra information

The Royal Horticultural Society website has advice on how to keep your family safe from potentially harmful garden plants. You can also call its helpline on 0845 260 8000, from 10am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4pm.

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