Tag Archives: Weeds

Managing Wild Parsnip

“As everyone knows, when fighting a zombie, you grab a shovel and aim for its head. The same with wild parsnip, except you aim for its feet.” – Paul Hetzler

picture of yellow umbrella-like flower on a large green stalk

The bright yellow flowers of wild parsnip can be noticeable from a distance. The sap in this widely spreading invasive plant can cause severe burns.

There is no lack of invasive species in New York – but some do raise more of a concern than others. One such is the wild parsnip. Commonly spotted along roadsides with its bright yellow flowers, it can cause a problem on low maintenance areas on school grounds.

According to the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse, wild parsnip produces furanocoumarin, “a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits, that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days”. Avoid the sap and avoid the chemical burns.

In order to avoid those burns, the NYS DEC recommends:

  • Do not touch any parts of the plant with bare skin.
  • Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots and eye protection if working near wild parsnip to prevent skin contact with the sap. Synthetic, water-resistant materials are recommended.
  • If contact with sap occurs, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, and keep it covered for at least 48 hours to prevent a reaction.
  • If a reaction occurs, keep the affected area out of sunlight to prevent further burning or discoloration, and see a physician.
yellow flowers with some seed formation

Wild parsnip going to seed. The seeds become browner as they get ready to drop.

Digging out the root, cutting the root an inch or two below the soil, mowing, and herbicides can all be effective in managing wild parsnip. It is unlikely, however, that an emergency exemption for herbicide use would be approved before seed drop. Mechanical methods will have more long-term benefits.

And wild parsnip is going to seed, so make sure you don’t ensure a new crop next year by spreading seeds around! Before conducting any management, carefully cut the seed heads off with clippers and put them in a plastic bag. The bag can then be left in the sun to rot the seeds before disposal. And don’t forget to wear protective clothing to prevent any sap from reaching exposed skin or eyes.

If you want to learn more about wild parsnip and its management, our favorite guest blogger Paul Hetzler covered it well and humorously in his blog, Vengeful Veggies.

For more pictures of wild parsnip, visit the Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID website. For information on other  invasive species, visit the New York State IPM Program’s Invasive Species page.

And, just in case we didn’t quite get the message across – wear protective clothing and eye wear to prevent sap from causing severe burns.

Announcing Updates to the Northeastern IPM School Best Management Practices Website

northeastipm.org/schools//

photo shows a screen shot of the front page of the school best management practices website

Our New Look!

Back in 2013, the Northeast School IPM Working Group (NESIWG) received a Partnership Grant from the Northeastern IPM Center to develop a Best Management Practices (BMP) website.

northeastipm.org/schools//

logo of the northeastern I P M center

Reducing pest and pesticide exposure is important for children, just as it is for district staff and visitors. But schools are especially challenging to manage because they include such varied and heavily used settings such as classrooms, cafeterias, laboratories, auditoriums, theaters, playing fields, playgrounds and gardens.

photo shows signs of damaged turf on a lacrosse field due to over use

The burden of use on an athletic field. (NYSIPM photo)

With the help of many contributors, the NESIWG both created and collected resources for school IPM. We wanted to help administrators, school boards, parents, teaching and support staff, athletic directors, groundskeepers, kitchen staff and custodians how a designated pest management plan can reduce both pests and the need for pesticides. The website was a success.

By 2018, NESIWG members saw the need to update old links and fill out gaps in the content. Eager to keep the website a useful and comprehensive resource, the working group applied for and received a NEIPM Communications grant. Again using focus groups, the following changes were made:

  • a reorganization of the pest species list,
  • additional information on relevant pesticide use regulations in all Northeastern states,
  • grouping resources by stakeholder roles,
  • the addition of two new pages: Breakfast in the Classroom and Playgrounds

Additionally, the recent grant included an update of the working group’s homepage, a new ranking of regional school IPM priorities, a current membership list and an index of school IPM contacts in the Northeast.

graphic shows front of new brochure announcing the changes in the school best management practices website

Front (Outside) of Brochure

Now, with changes soon to be complete, the NESIWG welcomes your visits and assistance in sharing this helpful site. After all, finding and using the website is key!

Back of new brochure advertising the changes to the Best management practices for schools website

Back (Inside) of Brochure

PLEASE CONSIDER DOWNLOADING OUR BROCHURE, printing a few and sharing them.  OR SHARE THIS LINK.

northeastipm.org/schools//

Poison Ivy – Don’t scratch

“Lewis Ziska, one of the lead scientists on the six-year study in a forest at Duke University, found that with increased atmospheric CO2 we get bigger, stronger, leafier poison ivy.” – Mary Woodsen, Poison ivy (like the Rolling Stones said …)

Just what we needed. Bigger, healthier, more toxic poison ivy.

New leaves on an old vine. Note the root-like structures gripping to the tree trunk.

New leaves on an old vine. Note the root-like structures gripping the tree trunk.

Poison ivy has a wide variety of habits – it’s often a climber with thick, woody vines. The vines are covered with rootlike hairs that help it cling to tree trunks or fences, which is a great way to distinguish it from other vines such as Virginia creeper. You will likely see this form most often on school grounds as it climbs fences, trees, and buildings.

It can also be standalone plants with a groundcover quality to them. And it can present in a shrub-like manner – most commonly seen along woodland edges.

The famous saying, “Leaves of three, let it be” is the one feature common to all growth forms. Those leaves, however, can range from ½” on new plants to over 5 inches long on older plants. They are usually smooth, but they can be toothed and sometimes lobed. Young leaves are usually reddish, older leaves can be a deep green, turning red or yellow in the fall. Shinyness is an option, therefore you can’t count on it to confirm your identification.

It's in there, and a quick inspection could have saved me a lot of itching.

Poison ivy is in there, and a quick inspection could have saved me a lot of itching.

And sometimes, it’s just hidden. As I type this blog, my fingers are pink with calamine lotion and I am trying desperately not to rub them against my pants. After a trying day, I vented my frustration on a neglected mulched area under a tree. I noticed the small poison ivy plants tucked into the other weeds only after I had ripped them out with my bare hands. I washed my hands with soap and water to remove the offending urushiol, the toxic oil that causes the dermatitis. But I wasn’t fast enough. A few days later, here come the blisters.

So, the motivation to check the NYS IPM resources on poison ivy management was strong. Here’s what I found on the School IPM Best Practices website:

Give it a trim. Often

Take a closer look. The leaves of three are less obvious when poison ivy gets bushy.

Poison ivy does not like to be trimmed. Mowing or cutting back young growth will deplete the energy in the roots. Plant stems, aerial vines and underground creeping stems are all capable of producing new nodes and leaves, so continue to monitor and trim. For best results, cut back new growth at the base of the plant.

Using a weed whacker is not recommended without full protective gear as plant material can be kicked back and land on exposed skin. Or in your eyes (shudder).

DO NOT BURN! The oils can be distributed through the smoke. It’s bad enough in between your fingers. You do not want to experience that kind of rash in your lungs.

Spot applications of a nonselective herbicide can be helpful for hard to reach locations or if you are extremely sensitive, but you need to follow the regulations laid out in the Child Safe Playing Fields Act and other state regulations. And remember, plants killed by herbicides will still have urushiol and can cause a rash.

In fact, the longlasting oils are present on all parts of the plant whether the plant is actively growing, dormant, or dead. So…

Wash your equipment!

Once on skin, tools, clothes, boots, and gloves, the oils need to be removed with soap and water. If you mowed poison ivy, urushiol may still be present on the mower blades the next time you remove them to sharpen them. If you used goats (yes, goats have been used to remove poison ivy), it could be in their hair. Take precautions.

And, for goodness sake, give a quick visual check before plunging into handweeding.

One last thought – according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, poison ivy “produces just the kind of fat-rich berries that are essential for sustaining migrating birds during fall and year-round residents in the winter”. So if you have poison ivy in an out-of-the-way area, consider leaving it behind for its wildlife value.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to take another benadryl.

 

 

Vengeful veggies – contributed by Paul Hetzler

I know that vegetables are not really vindictive, but it sounds crazy to talk about them as a burning hazard. There are a number of plants whose sap can cause serious chemical burns, and one of them is a common and widespread invasive species, the wild parsnip.

Wild parsnip provides an opportunity to expand our vocabulary. It is phytophototoxic.

A member of the same family as Queen Anne’s lace, wild parsnip generally reaches a height of between three and seven feet. From late June through mid-July, it is topped by pale greenish-yellow, umbrella-like flower clusters, which form seeds around the end of July. Wild parsnip can be found in vacant lots as well as in yards and gardens, but because it’s so effectively spread by mowing equipment, mile upon mile of it can be seen along northern NY State roadsides.

The root of this weed is in fact edible. It’s genetically identical to the parsnip we might plant in our garden. So what exactly is bad about wild parsnip?

Giant hogweed gets a lot of press due to the fact that, well, it’s giant. A flower that grows 15 to 20 feet in one season is impressive. And hogweed is scary, too, because its sap is phytophototoxic. The tongue-twister word means if its sap gets on your skin, it reacts with sunlight to cause second- and third-degree burns. Such burns often take months to heal and may actually leave a permanent scar. If sap gets in one’s eyes, it can even cause blindness.

Well guess what—wild parsnip sap does the same thing. It’s a small consolation, but you can’t get burned by merely brushing up against wild parsnip—a stem or leaf must be broken to expose the sap. And after the plant dries it is safe to handle, unlike poison ivy, which can cause a severe rash even if you dried it for a couple years (which is unlikely, but if you were considering it, be warned). All the same, it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves when handling wild parsnip.

As everyone knows, when fighting a zombie, you grab a shovel and aim for its head. The same with wild parsnip, except you aim for its feet. It has a taproot That’s tough to pull out, but it is easily cut with a shovel. It’s not necessary to get the whole root—just dig as deep as you can to sever the taproot, pry up until the plant tips over, and it will die. You don’t even have to touch it.

If you’re hopelessly outnumbered by wild parsnips, at least mow them—wearing protective clothing and eyewear of course—to keep them from making seeds. But unless you have a Level-A Hazmat suit, don’t use a string trimmer on it. Mowing will buy you some time to muster shovel-wielding townsfolk (pitchforks and torches are optional) to help you.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides like Roundup, is effective against wild parsnip. Herbicide is most effective when used on first-year plants (“rosettes”), ones which have no flower stalk, in late summer or early fall. Spraying early in the season will kill the top but not the root, so the plant may come back if treated in spring or early summer. (EDITORIAL NOTE: New York’s Child Safe Playing Field Act requires that most pesticide applications, including glyphosate, made on the portions of school or childcare facility grounds frequented by children may only be done when approved as an emergency exemption. For more information: https://blogs.cornell.edu/schoolchildcareipm/tag/child-safe-playing-fields-act/page/3/ )

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer, and that the only scorching you encounter is that walk across the hot beach sand.

For more information on wild parsnip, giant hogweed or other invasive species, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

–Paul Hetzler
Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

Keeping the Pests Out on a Budget: IPM workshops for safe playing fields

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” –  Benjamin Franklin

Calling all school, parks, and sports turf managers and lawn care providers! You have two chances to join the Cornell Turf Team as we look at the latest information on providing safe playing surfaces on sports fields.

June 27, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Lakeview Elementary School, Mahopac, NY
Full program | Pre-registration required by June 20
Contact: Jennifer Stengle js95@cornell.edu

August 3, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Coxsackie-Athens High School, Coxsackie, N.Y.
Full program | Pre-registration required by July 28
Contact: Joellen Lampman jkz6@cornell.edu

Topics will include the basics (fertility, irrigation, mowing); advanced techniques (overseeding, seed selection, and turf repair); pest prevention, identification and management; and more.

Coffee and lunch are included. The workshop is free for schools and parks personnel. All other turf managers, please bring $25.

NYS DEC Pesticide Credits: 4.25 in Categories 3a, 3b, 10; STMA CEUs: .375

For more information and to register, visit http://turf.cals.cornell.edu/news/safe-playing-fields-ipm-workshops/.