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“It eats away at your skin:” Wild parsnip lands Iowa woman in the ER after some simple gardening

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Wild parsnip

DES MOINES — Iowans are being warned about a poisonous weed sprouting up across the state. It looks like a harmless wildflower, but it can cause big problems if you touch it.

“Right down here is where I dug up my orange flowers,” Wendy Prusha said.

Prusha spent a June day cleaning up the creek next to her home in Union, Iowa — pulling lilies for a front porch decoration.

“And I just got down here and I was digging them up and getting down to the roots,” Prusha said.

What seemed like a harmless gardening task landed Prusha in the emergency room.

“It’s a constant burning, it just bubbled up overnight,” Prusha said.

Prusha had come into contact with wild parsnip.

“The oils sit on your skin. It’s a constant burning and it eats away your skin,” Prusha said.

The wild parsnip blistered Prusha’s forearm — and led to burning pain, and red and cracked skin.

The Iowa DNR is warning that patches of parsnip are popping up across the state. It looks like a dill plant or Queen Anne’s Lace. It is yellow and grows about four feet tall.

The poisonous weed is most commonly found along roadside ditches, along bike trails, and in open fields and prairie areas. It may not look like much — but the little weed can cause a whole lot of pain.

“It’s very dangerous and it’s very harmful,” Prusha said.

Prusha’s family immediately sprayed and mowed the area where the parsnip was found — effectively killing the dangerous weed.

Now, she is on a mission to inform others about the pain and suffering caused by some simple gardening.

“Let them know what it looks like and to tell to them to stay away from it,” Prusha said.

Chemicals in the juice of the poison parsnip react with sunlight and cause a breakdown of cells and tissues.

Effects can last for weeks and scars can last for years.