How to look out for 2 types of poisonous plants currently blooming in Northeast Ohio

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — Two kinds of invasive poisonous plants are continuing to spread throughout Ohio, including in the Cleveland area. And it’s all about knowing what to look for in order to steer clear of poison hemlock and wild parsnip.

Entomologist Joe Boggs with Ohio State University Extension, who has followed the plants’ trajectory in the state for the last two decades, tells FOX 8 news it’s still unclear why they’re here and why they continue to spread.

“I don’t want to be a fearmonger on this, but it’s becoming concerning enough,” Boggs explained. “I don’t want people to fear going outside. but … these two plants are so new to people that they have not learned to avoid them.”

In general, people should avoid handling plants they can’t identify. But if poison hemlock or wild parsnip happen to be in your yard, or a space you are commonly, here’s what to look for with these two plants.

Poison Hemlock

Courtesy of Tony Mirones via WCMH

“Poison hemlock is the plant that was used to kill Socrates, it ranks as one of our most poisonous plants found in Ohio,” Boggs says. “But you have to ingest the plant. You can handle it [without getting sick].”

Boggs says to look for a white flowers that look like they are on an umbrella, a tall stem with spots and leaves that are carrot-like. If ingested, or if sap gets in the eye, people are advised to go to the emergency room immediately. It does not cause blistering.

Wild Parsnip

Courtesy of Tony Mirones via WCMH

“If you get the sap of [wild parsnip] on your skin it can cause blistering severe enough to get skin grafts,” Boggs says. “Of the two plants, it even causes me greater concern. I won’t handle it without gloves.”

The plant has yellow flowers, a rhubarb-like stalk and celery-esque leaves, Boggs says. If a sunburn-type rash with blisters appears on your skin after being around such a plant, residents are to seek medical attention immediately.

The plants, part of the carrot family, commonly grow nearby one another, Boggs says, so people should be on the lookout for the two together.

If the plants need to be removed from your yard, Boggs recommends considering herbicides to kill them, which he says is safer than mowing them down even while wearing protective gear.

At the end of the day, Boggs still wants people to go outside and enjoy nature. “Don’t be scared, just be aware,” he says.

Find out more about the plants on the Ohio State University Extension blog right here.

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