Noxious plant identified as cow parsnip

Published on July 30, 2013
The Codroy Valley is full of cow parsnip, according to a horticulturist with MUN Botanical Garden.
— Thinkstock Photo

It turns out a four-year-old wasn’t burned by hogweed on the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

Todd Boland, research horticulturist with MUN Botanical Garden, says it was actually cow parsnip.

The Codroy Valley is full of cow parsnip, he said, and the only confirmed specimens of hogweed have been in the greater St. John’s area.

Outside the Avalon, any plants with similar descriptions are known to be cow parsnip.

TC Media recently published a story on Lance Downey, a four-year-old who was injured and laid up for more than a week after an encounter with what was thought to be giant hogweed in  on July 10.

“Then he was awake all night crying about a burning on his toe,” his mother, Dolly Donaldson, said. “The next morning he got up and it was huge.”

It spread to the boy’s other foot a couple of days later.

Boland, who has visited the Codroy Valley for many years, explained both plants are almost identical with minor exceptions to coloring or blotching on the stems.

While the Codroy Valley plants do have purple in the stalks, they are still considered to be cow parsnip.

Giant hogweed plants have blotchy red and purple spots throughout the stems, as most cow parsnip have either green stalks or purple stalks.

Boland said symptoms from reactions to cow parsnip are just as toxic as giant hogweed.

He said that hogweed has received a lot of press about its effect on human health, yet it seems that cow parsnip is overlooked somehow.

Although the conditions have to be right, he said, for the amount of cow parsnip located in the Codroy Valley, he is surprised that more people have not had problems.

Removing these plants, which also have sap that burns skin when exposed to sunlight, will be a major issue in the Codroy Valley, he said.

The Gulf News