Hospital: Cow parsnip, the root that could kill you, is spreading in Washington

You’re walking down Pennsylvania Avenue at night and suddenly feel the sharp pain of a sharp object on your leg. If you didn’t see the sharp objects in the first place, it may well be a cow parsnip (lily) stuck in your leg. It’s that exact fear that’s spurred the city of Washington to invest in efforts to eliminate the root of this threat before any more people are hurt.

Washington residents have been warned for some time now that these plants are out of control and even require restrictions on planting their seeds due to the potential danger they pose. But the mayor’s office is making good on its word and getting to work on cracking down on cow parsnip, which has a root extremely similar to a sharp agricultural tool — the pinch. If someone had to perform triage on any city streets, we hope it’d be on cow parsnip. Thankfully, that’s about to be a thing of the past.

Cows Parsnip Spotted On C-21, 13th Street NW, Asks Questionable ‘Where Would the Snake Be?’ Posted by Washington Post on Friday, September 29, 2017

“We were actually notified about this problem earlier this year,” explained Government Relations Director for the Washington Environmental Advisory Board Lisa Kneisley. “They had the same problem in Northern Virginia. And it seems to be an attempt at fouling the city streets. And we know that what causes this is people don’t understand how dangerous it is. And once you have that type of violation on a street with a high level of pedestrian traffic, then city officials have very real concerns.”

To combat the plant, the city planned to meet with other experts on the problem on Saturday to come up with options to address the issue, she said. Some of the ideas and suggestions include beefing up the existing planting infrastructure to better increase fruit densities and guar gum plants and making public service announcements so the public is educated about how to prevent the plant from blocking roadways.

Kneisley said there was a solution at hand, but people’s understanding of how dangerous this plant can be if you try to control it at all costs seems to be the main problem.

“We’ve got to get more people in on the cure,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to get across to the members of our public engagement team and people who are affected by it.”

If you must have the plants in your gardens this year and are worried about them potentially harming your pets, it seems like they are more susceptible to survive freezes this winter. As always, do not plant any of these in your garden this fall.

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