Isn’t it amazing what we pretend to forget every year?

“Oh, I won’t plant the tomato plants six feet apart. They’ll never grow that big.”

“I don’t need to cover the strawberries with straw. It’ll probably be a mild winter.”

“It’s too hot to wear long sleeve and pants while weed-whacking.”

It’s that last one that got me in trouble this past weekend. You see, Beekman Farm is under attack. In fact, the whole county has practically been conquered. And for the 4th year in a row, I’ve gone into battle without any armor.

One of the most troublesome invasive weed species we have in our area is the Wild Parsnip (or Pastinaca Sativa.) It was introduced to this country sometime in the 19th century, and whether it was by accident or because it produces a fairly pretty flower, if I ever find out who brought it over here I’ll go pee on their grave. (Not really. But I at least hope his grave is covered with this devil weed.)  Chances are that you probably have it somewhere near you as well. It’s found in 46 states, and listed as a noxious weed in most of them.

It is a kinda pretty plant. Grows to 4-5 feet tall and produces a yellow flower that looks like what would be birthed if Queen Anne’s Lace, Dill, and Satan had a menage a trois.

Don’t be fooled by its pretty face.

Just touching the leaves or flowers won’t do you any harm. It’s what’s inside that counts. The sap. When it comes in contact with the skin, phytophotodermatitis occurs. Yes, that’s as nasty as it sounds. When the juice is exposed to ultraviolet sunlight it burns the skin, causing dark pigmentation and blisters. The blisters and rash are itchy, but not as painful as, say, poison ivy. But the after effects are much worse…at least as far as one’s vanity is concerned.

Those aren’t freckles.

The darkened pigmentation of the skin will last for months – sometimes up to 2 years! I know this for a fact. I still have some spots from when I tangled with it last year. Because, like my annual tomato rainforest and freeze-burned strawberry plants, my first weed-whacking expedition of each year is an exercise in willful dementia. I simply refuse to remember how disfigured I get after showering myself in Wild Parnsip bits.

Ouch.

Let’s make a deal. If someone reminds me to cover up before weed-whacking next year, I’ll remind you to put the storm windows in before the first blizzard sneaks up on you.

Be careful out there.

 

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Reader Comments

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Amy Wexler

Ohh Josh next time go on your parsnip hunts at night then put your clothes in the laundry right away and then shower! Remember no UV rays at night means no chemical sunburns brought on by UV rays. So sorry that happened to you!

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Deb

Oh, man! My first tangle with wild parsnip left my arms & legs looking like I lost a fight with cat- a really angry one. Just don't go chewing on it like grass stems. This was an unfortunate mindless mistake made by one of the leading characters in The Dirty Life (post book publication).

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Delia

Got that nasty/pretty looking stuff in Northern CA, too. But your story reminds me of Bill & I battling poison oak on our property in Oregon. We almost bought goats just to eat it, then we threw in the towel (a

very wet towel from all the rain in Oregon) and moved here. Sorry your sexy skin was hurt by this stuff. Hope you are all better soon. Wondering if aloe vera helps.

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Leslie Ann

Even if you cover up while weed wacking these devil weeds, it is always a good idea IMMEDIATELY after your'e done, to wipe your hands, arms, ankles, legs, neck, face, etc.. with alcohol to remove any sap that might have gotten on you.

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centralia heart

Holy Cow! my mint and minarda garden is full of wild parsnip! Now I know to just leave it alone and not try to pull it out.

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nadia

i kid you not, two minutes before i got online and started browsing the net and your blog i made a lovely bouquet of wild flowers that are growing on my 100 acres, i have had tiny spot on my hands but i thought perhaps they were do to the sun which i have gotten before! thank you for letting me know- they are so pretty YIKES!

you can actually see a bouquet with them i made earlier in the week on my blog!! i am glad i did not gift the bouquet to anyone!

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amy

Was this right before the Beekman Garden tour? You mean while you were giving us a wonderful tour you were in pain? Ouch…You couldt tell otherwise 😉

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Deb Meyer-Koller

I feel for you – that stuff is nasty. I too have had a past run-in with that noxious weed here in Wisconsin. I had no idea at the time what had happened because the weeds weren't that high and sort unrecognizable. Many painful blisters resulted. It was by accident while searching for something else on the internet that I ran across a posting describing it and knew that's what I'd encountered. From then on I always wear gloves when weeding and don't let anything touch bare skin!

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Larissa

Hmmmmm…I wonder if that's what I got. I don't weed whack (make the Hubby do it, cuz I am terrible at it), but was into the weeds (not poison ivy)…I still have the remnants of the itchy bumps, after a healthy dose of antibiotics for the initial scratched wound, which didn't look so great after scratching it…a lot. I also was taking Claritin and had a steroid shot for the itch. Hope your's isn't as bad as mine got!

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Nancy McGee

I battled acres of kudzu for years with a tiny mower, so I hear where you're coming from with the non-native species.

But owch! Maybe you need to laminate some pictures of that and stick it to your weed whacker so next time you go out there you'll remember! I can't really talk because I'd just as soon walk right past my gardening gloves to go plant with my bare hands — leaving me all night to clean my finger nails. 🙂

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Julie Hinkens

Battle wounds ouch!! Try sitting in a warm epsom salt bath, soothes the skin, and your mind too:) So happy you're at the farm, and not in the city. Read your book "I am just not myself these days"…what a roller coaster ride you were on…a great read, made me want to give you a hug throughout it! Sooo happy you have Brent in your life:) The Beekman Boys "Bucolic Plague"…traveled with me to Las Vegas, and kept me company in the plane and @ poolside. Loved it the first time I read it, and am reading again, just love you two! You're SUPER!!!

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Renee M Boyer

Ah yes, the lovely rashs of summer. I found if you finely grind dry oatmeal in your blender (from the cereal aisle, buy the cheap stuff), throw a couple of cups under the hottest water in the bathtub with a cup epsom salts. Let the water in the bath cool a little before u hop in. (really hot water aggravates rashy skin and increases itching). I bet u could add goats milk too. Soaking in this helps with itching and muscle aches. Good luck. Try not to scratch too much.

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Cynthia

Aloe vera gel without the alcohol in a bottle will help. What is even better if you get a fresh piece from the plant and split it in half to use the gel part of the leave. Rub the gel part onto the rash. Judging by the pictures it looks like you are going to need a large piece or several large pieces.

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Skip Haughay

Josh, that was the very reason Abel and I kept our long pants on when we weed-whacked over by the crypt. If I did not cover up I would have been covered in welts as though I'd rolled in sumac. I felt bad for you… Your arms and hands were tore up!

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Rita

Poor thing. I did that once with Virginia Creeper. It sent me to the E.R. I was so hopped up on steroids I could"nt see straight. I have to agree with Dama Lewis, Fels Naptha soap was recomended to me by E.R. Doc & pharmacist. Feel better.

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Kat

Try using your own goats milk soap. Or just use the cream skimmed off the top. Works wonders….

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Kat

NOTHING BETTER THEN YOUR OWN GOATS MILK SOAP. Or just the milk itself(better yet, the cream on the surface) works for me…..good luck

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Deb C.

Holy crap!! And I thought the black flies in VT were bad; I must have swallowed at least a dozen doing some landscaping over the last 2 weeks. Bring your bug repellent to Woodstock this weekend! And best wishes at the book signing!

Deb

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candis

Oh dear! I live n flower and our issue is sap frim elephant ears, does same thing, i do it every yr! I get sprsyed n then fall n pool cause my bidy is burning!

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Dama Lewis

You poor thing! I can tell you right now, I won't remember to remind you and, being in touch with Spring gardening "dementia" (or just plain stubbornness), I predict this may happen again. My advice would be to get yourself a bar of Fels-Naptha soap (Yeah, I know), stash it away, and next Spring, as soon as that devil-juice hits your legs, go wash up and try to stay out of the sun.

Hope you heal soon!

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Patsy

Holey moley, Josh! Stay away from that stuff. Make Brent do it. Lol. Just kidding. Does Brent give you doctor's sympathy? Oh and no matter what you think, yes, the tomato plants really do get that big….every year. God bless.

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Morgan

Josh, this is what I wear when weedwacking: My brother's old jumpsuit from the Marines. I'll email you the picture my mom took one time. It covers my arms, legs – everything! It's breathable too so I don't sweat to death doing it. Since I'm so fashion minded, I wear my old school Top Gun T-shirt under. 😉

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Barbara

ps, I have a few plants in my back yard in Seattle that cause the same blisters. Nasty plants.

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Jennifer Rizzo

I did that with stinging nettle once. I pulled it with out thinking, but that looks way more painful! I wonder if there is some home remedy that cancels it out.. sometimes they grow near by.

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Jennifer

I guess that this post could be filed as number 875,301 why farmers used to wear overalls. Well, that and the cool pockets along with the ability to overeat at lunch without having to unbutton the top button on your shorts before weed-whacking the afternoon away!

Gardening is tough, unforgiving work and most of us have the scars to prove our annual insanity during the growing season. Next year, I'll hope that yours won't come from wild parsnip.

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Joyce

OMG!! You just helped me figure out what my husband has. Thought it was poison ivy, but not spreading. Just moved to new house, couldn't figure out what the new rash was. You are just a bundle of information.

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Barbara

I was awoken at 1 am to a strange dog barking. I didn't think much of it, but I then heard cans being kicked, I thought someone was entering my house. Me and the dog went down the hall to confront the intruders. The noise was louder in the computer room. What the heck was that………..I'd left the goat cam running. The girls were kicking up their heels, I went back to bed

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Maureen Kowalski

I feel your pain– I had some odd rash on my arms a couple of months ago–I think it was stress. But anyhow–my home remedy is to lace some Unker's Salve with Benadryl. Put some of the Unker's in a small pill bottle and cut open 1-3 Benadryl capsules and mix it in the salve then apply to the affected areas.

I did this because regular Benadryl cream contains alcohol, thus drying out your skin and making it feel worse. Unker's is petroleum jelly, menthol and camphor and the addition of the Benadryl caps makes it a great little home remedy.

Feel better soon!

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Chris

The dreaded "poison parsnips" of my youth! I feel your pain! Once had a blister the size of my thumb. Scar stayed for years. Try a solution of baking soda and peroxide paste to lessen the itch and remove some of the toxins (next time?). Happy summer!

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teri tighe

Well, you did do a great job weed whacking but I understand, it was really hot this weekend so how can you stand out there for hours in long pants and shirt???

It's like going into battle and I'm sorry for your war wounds.

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Karen Hartley

I keep running into something at the bottom of my hill. I wonder if that is it. I will watch out for it the next time I go down the hill. Thanks for the heads up.

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sally richmond

Josh, Maybe a baking soda bath would be good for the itching. I feel so bad for you. Next year wear long pants and long sleeved shirt !

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Nicole

Ouch.

Next year we'll remind you to cover up before weed-whacking. No matter how hot it is. 🙂 We'll just send you a link back to here going remember this post?

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Suzette

Don't ruin your skin Josh. Conquer that selective dementia next time. You are way too young to be one. Remember to remember…

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Norie Kany

I recommend After the Garden soap for you. LOL So sorry for you but I learned many, many years ago, better to be hot than covered in stuff you will regret. I live in the deep south where bugs and poison ivy are rampart. Now, I just try to get someone else to do the work.

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