The city of Ottawa will launch its annual campaign to deal with wild parsnip next week, the invasive plant that can cause skin and eye irritation and makes the skin prone to burning and blistering.

Herbicides will be sprayed along 935 lane kilometres of roadsides/pathways and more than 200 locations of parkland across rural and suburban areas of Ottawa as part of the Wild Parsnip Program.  The city will launch the program on Tuesday, with spraying in city parks beginning on June 6.

"The goal is to reduce the growth of wild parsnip in highly infected areas while ensuring that environmentally sensitive areas and public safety are not adversely impacted," said Allison Wilson, manger, technical operations with the Public Works Department.

Ottawa is spending $298,000 to deal with wild parsnip along rural and suburban roadways and parks across the city this year.

Along with the spraying, roadside grass cutting will begin in early June.

Wild parsnip is a highly branched plant, with hollow green stems. The city says it has two growth stages: non-flowering leafy rosettes at ground level and 0.5 to 1.5 metre-tall flowering plants. Wild parsnip usually blooms in early June to late July.

Rural property owners can ask the city to not treat their areas for wild parsnip.

"Rural residents who do not wish to have the roadside adjacent to their property sprayed will be given the option to opt-out of the Wild Parsnip Program," Wilson said.

"Should a resident opt-out of the program, it will become their responsibility to manage any wild parsnip infestation adjacent to their property, as required by the Weed Control Act, 1990."


The city of Ottawa offers the following tips to avoid wild parsnip

  • It is recommended that the public stay on the groomed areas of parks, roadsides and pathways where there are less instances of wild parsnip.
  • When working around wild parsnip or when walking through dense vegetation, wear goggles, gloves, long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Children should be reminded not to pick wild flowers
  • If you are exposed to the plant sap, wash the contaminated area(s) thoroughly as soon as possible, and seek medical attention if skin irritation occurs.