Regina man left with 'huge blisters' after run-in with wild parsnip

Warning: This story contains an image that may be disturbing to some readers. Mark Wilson is a Regina man who suffered burns after hiking past some wild parsnip in the Qu'Appelle Valley area.

Wild parsnip can cause burns and potentially even blindness

Wild parsnip has a sap that can burn skin and even blind people. (CBC)

Warning: This story contains an image that may be disturbing to some readers.

Mark Wilson never liked eating parsnips. Now an encounter with a wild parsnip has given him an extra reason to dislike the species.

The Regina man wasn't aware of the threat posed by wild parsnip when he went hiking in Qu'Appelle Valley near Last Mountain Lake last week. He was going through some tall bush when he brushed against wild parsnip.

A couple of days later, his legs broke out in a bad rash, which he said looked like a bad infection.

"The next day it started blistering, just huge blisters all over the bottom part of my leg," he said. "It gets kinda gross after that, but it kind of oozes for a couple days. And now it's finally starting to dry up."

Brushing past wild parsnip left Regina's Mark Wilson with oozing burns on his leg. (Photo submitted by Mark Wilson)

His doctor didn't recognize the injury, but gave him antibiotics and anti-itch cream.

He later found out the plant makes skin sensitive to sunlight. He said he wished he had known earlier and kept his leg out of the sun. 

Chet Neufeld, vice-chair of the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council, told CBC Saskatchewan's The Morning Edition the reaction is basically a "horrible sunburn," and can even potentially lead to blindness.

"The insidious thing about this is that it doesn't hurt right away," Neufeld said. "It's not like stinging nettle, where you feel that immediate burn. It works a little more slowly on your skin."

He advises people to exercise extreme caution around the weed. If you come across it in rural areas or towns or cities, contact the RM or city office. If you find it along the highway or in a regional or provincial park, contact the Ministry of Highways or the park office.

If you know you've been exposed, wash the area immediately and go seek medical attention. The clothing you were wearing should be washed as well.

'The potential to take over'

Wild parsnip has been around for awhile, but it is spreading, Neufeld said. 

"There's really not a populated part of the province that couldn't have it," he said. "It has the potential to take over."

There are hotspots around Ness Creek, Kipling, and this year, Weyburn. Neufeld said people may see the invasive species as they travel down Highway 11 between Saskatoon and Prince Albert, as well as in the ditch south of Duck Lake.

Knowing what he knows now, Wilson said he'll wear long pants to be on the safe side when going into deep bush in Saskatchewan and suggests others do the same.

"Make sure if you do come into contact with it get out of the sun as soon as possible and make sure you shower it off and soak it up as well as you can."

With files from Nichole Huck and CBC Saskatchewan's The Morning Edition