Wild Parsnip


The City of Ottawa intends to control Wild Parsnip in areas city-wide along rural and suburban roadsides. Spot spraying will continue throughout the summer months as needed within the City of Ottawa.

The program will use Clearview Herbicide (PCP #29752, containing aminopyralid and metsulfuron-methyl) and Truvist (PCP #30920, containing aminocyclopyrachlor and chlorsulfuron) under the Pest Control Products Act (Canada).

Commencing on May 15, 2016 weather permitting, and ending October 15, 2016.

For further information, contact 3-1-1.

2016 Wild Parsnip Coverage and 2016 Wild Parsnip Strategy


The Public Works department has been proactively mapping out wild parsnip infestation levels across the City along roadsides, parkland and pathways. The identification of wild parsnip collected from staff has been used to identify the control areas for the 2016 strategy.

The integrated management strategy includes monitoring, mapping, the use of herbicides, mowing and evaluation. Herbicide application and accelerated mowing are beginning May 15th The herbicides Clearview and Truvist were chosen in consultation from other Municipal and Provincial stakeholders and experts.   Both herbicides are selective and may impact other weeds/plants but should not impact trees or grass.  

Monitoring and mapping are ongoing.

Second year growth wild parsnip begins to dry up in August, so contact with the plant will be less likely to cause a reaction. However, the sap still remains inside the plant. Avoidance or personal protective gear, when handing the plant, is still recommended.

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

Wild Parsnip is an invasive plant that is increasingly common within the City of Ottawa in areas of uncultivated land, roadside ditches, nature trails, as well as on and surrounding rural and residential properties.

Wild Parsnip may pose a health risk to humans. The plant sap contains chemicals that may cause skin and eye irritation and make the skin prone to burning and blistering when exposed to the sun. The blisters typically occur one to two days after contact with the plant. This can result in long-term scarring of the skin.

The best way to avoid contact with Wild Parsnip is to become familiar with what the plant looks like so you do not accidently come in contact with the plant. 


Wild Parsnip is a highly branched plant, with hollow green stems. It has two growth stages: non-flowering leafy rosettes at ground level and 0.5 to 1.5 metre-tall flowering plants.

Early Growth: In the first year of growth, low-growing non-flowering rosettes of leaves form with a cluster of spindly, compound leaves that resemble celery leaves.

In Bloom: When Wild Parsnip is in bloom usually in the second and third year plants have tall, branched yellow flowering stalks that usually bloom in early June to late July.

Mature Plant: Starting in August ‎the blooming plant will begin to turn brown and the leaves and stems will begin to dry up. This means that the toxic sap from the plant will also begin to dry up, and contact with the plant is less likely to cause a reaction. Once the plant is completely dry the seeds will fall to the ground.

Seeds are flat and round. It is a biennial plant, reproducing only by seed. The seeds can lie dormant for years making it even more challenging to control.

Leaf of wild parsnip

Early Growth

Wild parsnip's yellow flower

In Bloom

Mature Plant

Mature Plant

Education and Public Awareness

 How to avoid the plant

  •  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. Thoroughly wash boots and  gloves with soap and water before taking off your protective clothing.
  •  Children should be reminded not to pick wild flowers. Ensure children are able to identify Wild Parsnip in order to avoid exposure.
  •  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.

Public Education

  • An awareness post card will be distributed at public events such as fall fairs. The awareness postcard will also be distributed to City partners such as school boards, and Ottawa Public Health.
  • A flyer was distributed to school aged children and their parents in the Fall 2015, with information about wild parsnip and how to identify the plant. 
  • Caution signs will been installed in areas where there are high levels of wild parsnip infestation. Staff will continue to install caution signs in areas where the public may reasonably expect to encounter wild parsnip, and the City encourages residents to be mindful of the plant when entering non-groomed portions of wooded and naturalized areas.

Wild Parsnip Caution Sign

  • Hard copies of the postcard or flyer are available by contacting adopt@ottawa.ca or by phone at 613-580-2424 extension 23202.
  • Staff will continue to work with Corporate Communications, Ottawa Public Health and other internal and external stakeholders to coordinate efforts related to health promotion and implementation of weed reduction strategies. Staff will also continue to make updates to the City’s website as they learn more about wild parsnip through the pilot project.
  • For additional information, please consult the City of Ottawa’s website. Residents can also contact the Ottawa Public Health Information Line for more information about the health impacts of wild parsnip at 613-580-6744.

Wild Parsnip Look-A-Likes

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

Giant Hogweed

Photo courtesy of Ken Towle


  • 2.5 to 5 m high
  • Hollow, 5 to 15 cm thick
  • Prominent purple blotches
  • Distinct, coarse bristly hairs


  • Large, white umbrella-shaped clusters 30 to 90 cm across
  • Made up of 50 to 150 small clusters

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum)

Cow Parsnip

Photo courtesy of Lynda Shores


  • 1 to 2.5 m high
  • Hollow, 5 cm thick at base
  • Green, few to no purple spots
  • Soft and fuzzy hairs


  • White umbrella-shaped clusters
  • 10 to 30cm across, made up of 15 to 30 small clusters

Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota)

Queen Anne's Lace

Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan


  • 0.3 to 1.5 m high
  • Green, 1 to 2.5 cm thick
  • Covered with fine bristly hairs


  • White flower cluster 5 to 10 cm across
  • Pale pink before fully opened
  • Often single purple flower in centre of cluster

Angelica (Angelica spp.)


Photo courtesy of Owen Williams


  • 1.2 to 2.1 m high
  • Purple or purple blotched
  • Smooth (no hairs)


  • Greenish-white globe-like flower clusters
  • 8 to 25 cm across

2015 Strategy

The 2015 strategy included the following:

  • Piloting herbicide applications and targeted mowing in specific locations identified as having high levels of wild parsnip infestation from information gathered in our 2014 analysis. 260 km of roadsides and several select areas of park land were targeted with herbicide. Early results show that herbicide applications have been effectively controlling wild parsnip growth.
  • Designing a monitoring project to track infestation levels and to assess effectiveness of pilot strategies
  • Updating the 2014 wild parsnip inventory with 2015 wild parsnip infestation levels along roadsides, parkland and pathways.

On Private Property 

Strategies to remove Wild Parsnip include the digging out the plant roots, targeted mowing, the use of herbicides and ongoing monitoring.

Digging the root up: Residents that have a small infestation in a yard or garden (fewer than 100 plants) or who do not want to use pesticides can dig out as much of the taproot as possible with a sharp shovel or spade. Follow-up digging will be required every few weeks to deal with re-growth (if the taproot was not completely removed) or missed plants. DO NOT burn or compost Wild Parsnip plants that have been cut down or dug up. Plants and roots that have been removed should be placed in a dark plastic bag and placed in the sun if possible away from areas children or pets could access them. After the wild parsnip plant has been left in a black bag for one to two weeks in the sun, it can be collected through your normal waste collection as garbage, not as leaf or yard waste. The bags do not need to be labelled. The City is handling wild parsnip in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry of Environment.

Targeted mowing: Mowing can be effective if begun just after peak blooming, but before the seeds set in the late summer or early fall. Cut plants will likely re-sprout after mowing, so it is important to combine mowing with other control methods such as bagging and removing the plants, especially those that are flowering and spot spraying with an approved herbicide. Be especially careful when using mowers, weed whips, mechanical string trimmers as they can spray users with sap and bits of the plants, leading to redness and sometimes hundreds of blisters on exposed skin. Wear goggles and protective clothing when mowing.

Use of herbicides: When a weed such as Wild Parsnip is declared a noxious weed, both the City and residents are able to purchase herbicides to control it. This is not considered a cosmetic use of pesticides because this plant can pose a risk to people. For more information please go to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) website.

Monitoring: Long-term monitoring is important in keeping this weed under control, as seeds will continue to germinate for several years.

Other Information

Reporting Wild Parsnip: Report Wild Parsnip, Poison Ivy or Giant Hogweed on city property by calling 3-1-1 or letting us know with this on-line reporting form.

Safety Information: Important safety information on Wild Parsnip hazards, control and disposal is available on the Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program web site

Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee Reports: March 3, 2016 Wild Parsnip Strategy Report

Education: The City of Ottawa has produced an informational postcard and factsheet that are available upon request. Please contact adopt@ottawa.ca to request copies. Supplies may be limited.

Herbicide Application: Residents with property adjacent to the areas being sprayed can opt out by e-mailing dean.johnson@ottawa.ca