Three dangerous plants to avoid in the summer
Summer means more time in the great outdoors, enjoying nature, but there are some plants that can be dangerous if you’re not careful.
Gardening expert Carson Arthur told CTV Morning Live that there are a few plants in the region to know about.
“The sap on this, if it gets on your exposed skin, will actually cause blistering and rashes in the sunlight,” he said.
If you are exposed to the plant sap, wash the contaminated area thoroughly as soon as possible, and seek medical attention if skin irritation occurs.
Wild parsnip is an invasive species that is becoming more common in Ottawa. When wild parsnip is in bloom, plants have tall, branched yellow flowering stalks that usually bloom in early June to late July.
The city of Ottawa has a wild parsnip strategy to remove infestations, which includes the use of herbicide.
Arthur says if you intend to remove the plants from your property, take precautions.
“First of all, you’ve got to wear long sleeves. Make sure your sleeves cover all of your skin,” he said. “Wear gloves. I even tell people, tape your sleeves down and tape your gloves to your sleeves so that there’s no exposed skin when you’re cutting it.”
He also recommends safety glasses.
“These droplets will splatter and they can get on your face and in your eyes,” Arthur said.
Once you’re protected, Arthur says to cut the flower pods, which contain the seeds that spread the plant, and throw them in a garbage bag, not your compost.
“It’s the only time I’m going to say don’t compost a plant. Don’t compost wild parsnip flowers; they can spread next season.”
“Giant hogweed can get about 12 feet tall,” Arthur said. “There are four species, only two are in our area. Both of those two varieties are biennial, which means once they’re done flowering, they die off.”
Similar to wild parsnip, the sap from giant hogweed can also cause blistering if it gets on your skin.
Arthur says to have full protection to keep your skin covered and to remove the flower pods and place them in a garbage bag. Afterwards, the entire plant must be removed.
“When you dig it out, you want to treat it with a spray,” he said. “I’m a big fan of using cleaning vinegar. It’s readily available and it has a high acid level. Pour it down into the root. The root can get about a metre long, so it’s almost impossible to dig it out, but by pouring the vinegar down into the root, you can help kill it off.”
“Poison ivy, unfortunately in our area, is a perennial, which means it comes back every year,” Arthur said. “Poison ivy will grow from one clump with a rootlet to another clump and that’s how it spreads. Unfortunately, poison ivy can spread under the ground but also up trees. It can turn into a vine.”
Poison ivy secretes an oil that can cause skin irritation. Arthur says this means you can’t handle it with leather gloves.
“You’ve got to wear rubber gloves. The oil can penetrate fabric material,” he said. “Those ‘leaves of three’ will be your biggest indicator something’s wrong.”
Getting rid of poison ivy requires some digging, Arthur says.
“This is one of those ones where you’ve got to get the shovel and you gotta be careful. As you dig it out, if you split any of those roots, a new clump of poison ivy is going to grow up,” he says.
Do not burn poison ivy. The plant is toxic and burning it will create dangerous smoke, Arthur says. Poison ivy should also be placed into garbage bags.
“Do not put any of these plants into your landfill or vegetable recycling programs in the city because this will spread to other people’s yards and nobody wants that.”
Property owners are responsible for the removal of invasive plants on their own private property, but the city of Ottawa manages dangerous plants on municipal property. If you spot wild parsnip, giant hogweed or poison ivy on municipal property, call 3-1-1 if it’s an immediate hazard to people or property. Otherwise, you can fill out a form on the city’s website here: https://ottawa.ca/en/living-ottawa/environment-conservation-and-climate/wildlife-and-plants/plants/invasive-species-3