Wild Parsnip is back again in Bel-Air Community

Post date: May 5, 2016 12:27:06 AM

It was good to see the light-hearted article by Tom Spears in the April 28 edition of 'The Citizen', taking the City of Ottawa to task for their over-the-top website suggestions about suiting up in HAZMAT fashion before taking a walk in the woods because of the potential for encountering wild parsnip.

In fact, wild parsnip avoids wooded areas, preferring open sunny areas such as meadows and roadsides. As it happens, we have one such area within our community: the NCC-administered land hosting the bicycle-pedestrian pathway that passes through Bel-Air Community from Woodroffe Ave eastward to Maitland Ave., and for about a hundred metres beyond (in Copeland Park); a large patch of wild parsnip flourished there last year, directly below the power line (just a few metres north of the NCC pathway where regrowth can be expected again this year).

NCC mowed most of the heavy infestations of wild parsnip last summer, and will be launching another eradication program soon this year. However, new plants have already sprouted, some less than one metre from the pathway. Information appears to be lacking on whether the white sap in stems of these plants at this stage is as potent as when fully grown. So to be on the safe side, bare legs and sandals are inadvisable from now on for walking within the NCC corridor that transects our neighbourhood.

For BACA residents, especially those sharing a common boundary with the NCC pathway corridor, gloves are advisable for weeding their lawns and gardens because the young plants won't develop their characteristic umbellate flowers for another month. A photo of a recently sprouted wild parsnip plant is shown below, along with a photo of a wild parsnip that matured last year, still easily recognizable after a tough winter! Where the latter are still standing, expect lots of new regrowth below these dead plants and nearby. Before sprouting their tall vertical stems that bear distinctive yellow flowers, the new plants form radial rosettes with opposite leaflets on ribbed hollow green stems. The leaflets are ovoid and have serrated margins (some may have large notches). Consult both NCC and City of Ottawa websites for more illustrations and information.