Two rash-causing weeds spreading across QC

Published: Jun. 27, 2018 at 1:40 PM CDT
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Two weeds now spreading across the Quad Cities can cause a series of painful and perhaps dangerous symptoms: Wild parsnip and poison hemlock.

“Wild parsnip is now widespread in our area, especially along road ditches, old fields, and disturbed areas like abandoned lots,” said Brian Ritter with the Nahant Marsh preserve in Davenport.

“It seems to be spreading, especially in those areas. It’s a very adaptable plant and appears to be flourishing.”

The exterior of a wild parsnip weed, which typically reaches two to five feet and has yellow flowers, is not a threat per se but the oil inside can cause large and painful blisters on the skin within 24 to 48 hours of exposure.

Those mowing grass or walking in high vegetation can protect themselves by wearing clothing that covers exposed skin.

The same advice goes for poison hemlock, another weed now flourishing in the Quad Cities.

Poison hemlock has white flowers, fern-like leaves and often stands several feet tall by early summer.

“People should avoid touching [poison hemlock] and need to be cautious if mowing it or weed eating it,” Ritter told KWQC.

“Wearing long pants and shirts, and eye and face protection is definitely recommended.”

Ritter says poison hemlock has recently been spotted in local areas with heavy traffic, including near the Marquette Street landing, along riverfront bike paths, and the Duck Creek Trail.

According to the University of Illinois Extention, poison hemlock, like wild parsnip, can also cause a rash, but its bigger threat is if it enters the body through openings such as the mouth or eyes.

Poison hemlock is “incredibly poisonous if ingested," Ritter said.

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