I can remember that just a few years ago at DeYoung Natural Area, in a field near the entrance, invasive wild parsnip grew five feet tall. It was about to go to seed around the time we took a staff hike there and learned about this nasty invader, which grows on the edge of prairies and fields like the one at DeYoung. Like all invasives, wild parsnip crowds out our native plants and threatens biodiversity. It can also threaten human health—its sap can cause skin rashes and blisters. Luckily, it can’t survive in shade.
Thanks to the diligence of our stewardship staff and awesome volunteers, wild parsnip has been knocked back considerably at DeYoung in the last few years. Every spring, volunteers don long-sleeved shirts and gloves, arm themselves with soil knives and small shovels, and hunt for any remaining plants. I attended the 2019 workbee on a spectacular May morning, where we partnered with TART Trails and over a dozen people turned out to help.
Pulling out a long tap root of wild parsnip: So satisfying!
As garbage bags filled, volunteers chatted and got to know one another. Every few minutes someone just had to call attention to the size of the tap root they had extracted—me included. Someone pointed out that it was an American redstart singing as we worked; I heard an older volunteer joke that it was going to be “an ibuprofen kind of afternoon.”
After about an hour, I had helped to fill up a large black garbage bag and headed back to the office. On my way, I pondered this: Those volunteers who had earlier tackled the giant wall of wild parsnip had made our job so much easier. What if everyone who was physically able to could pitch in an hour or two, keeping invaders in check so that wildflowers still flourish and ecological diversity rules? Oh, what a beautiful world it would be.
Garlic mustard is easy to pull–see below to sign up for an upcoming workbee
Right now, an army of volunteers is needed to keep garlic mustard from wreaking havoc at Clay Cliffs Natural Area. Garlic mustard is easy to pull and it’s a great time of year to be out in the woods, with all the wildflowers blooming. You might even find a morel or two! I hope you will help by pitching in at an upcoming workbee—see schedule below.–Carolyn Faught