The “Danger Plants”

There is a category of plants that I have come to refer to collectively as “the danger plants.”  Some are native, like poison ivy, cow parsnip, and purple-stem angelica.  Some are non-native, like wild chervil, wild parsnip, and giant hogweed.  I wish to make a few points, which I will do below, but first let me clarify the most IMPORTANT of them:   I recommend to no one that they take on treatment work associated with the “danger plants.”  Why would you do that?  Sure anyone can pull or cut or spray a couple of plants, but these sites can be very complex.  My days are often long, and it takes real discipline (and fitness) to work steadily through the assorted hazards I encounter on the job.  Here are a few common hazards: extreme heat, sweat in the eyes, angry red-winged blackbirds, even angrier ground-nesting wasps, barbed wire, deep holes, steep banks, more barbed wire, gusts of wind, slips and trips, piles of broken glass, and let’s don’t leave out vine entanglements.

Other thoughts:

  1. A plant can be “dangerous” to people and beneficial medicinally at the same time.  All of us have different sensitivities, which can change over time, and even the plants themselves are changing.  Rising CO2 levels have made poison ivy more potent and more aggressive, a statement which I can corroborate from field experience.
  2. To learn more about the risks associated with these plants, do a simple web search on giant hogweed, sunlight-activated sap, burns, blisters, and / or blindness.
  3. Plant species can often be confused with look-alikes, particularly when they are newly emergent.  I am working on a video tool to help differentiate between the parsnips, golden alexander, purple-stem angelica, and giant hogweed.  People DO confuse their identifications… and we really hate to see angelica get mistakenly sprayed by a homeowner (next to the pond, no less).
  4. I do not perform control work on native species.  Yes, poison ivy is a plant to avoid, but rather than eradicate it, I seek to prevent favorable conditions from arising in the first place.  And burdock is no joy either, but what a great plant for suppressing invaders with those huge leaves!
  5. I do not train or teach people how to deal with the non-native “danger plants, ” nor do I endorse any ‘best management practices’ that you may encounter.  Eradication efforts are a long-term process with these plants; there is no quick fix.
  6. Leave the “danger plants” to me; I’ll happily share with you everything I know about all the other species that trouble you.  Then you can pay your kids to do flame treatments instead of me!  Good luck with that…

Thank You for Reading!  Be Safe.

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