Ottawa

Councillors want herbicides sprayed against wild parsnip

If two Ottawa councillors have their way, city crews will be spraying herbicides to counter the threat of wild parsnip.

Wild parsnip is an invasive plant that can be hazardous to skin and eyes

If two Ottawa councillors have their way, city crews will be spraying herbicides to counter the threat of wild parsnip, an invasive plant that has been spreading in city ditches, parks and onto private properties.

Wild parsnip is an invasive plant that has been spreading in city ditches, parks, and onto private properties. (Government of Ontario)

The roots of the plant are edible, but the plant's stem has toxic sap that can burn skin and blind anyone whose eyes come into contact with the sap.

That's a problem for city crews mowing ditches, where wild parsnip is thriving and the sap can spray onto them.

Provincial legislation strictly limits the use of herbicides, but there is an exception for plants that are poisonous to touch.

Councillor Scott Moffatt has asked city staff if Ottawa can start spraying against the plant.

Stephen Blais, councillor for Cumberland, said he supports his colleague.

Councillor Stephen Blais wants the city to spray herbicides against wild parsnip. (CBC)

"He and I both agree that I think we have the cause to do that, because of the health and safety issues," said Blais.

Michael Yee is a biologist with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.

He said spraying should only be considered for large infestations, where people are likely to come into contact with the plant.

"You're in fact putting a poison out into the environment, so if you're going to look at that option, you really have to decide all of the unintended consequences," said Yee.

Residents can get help identifying wild parsnip by contacting Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program.

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