Before geocaching I had heard of poison ivy, who hadn’t, but I’d never heard of giant hogweed or wild parsnip. Lucky for me I never had to worry about these plants before I learned about them. Contact with any of the three plants I just mentioned can ruin a perfectly good day of geocaching.
I don’t have too much trouble identifying giant hogweed, it really is giant! Identifying wild parsnip is also a fairly straight forward process, I just look for the yellow flowering section. Poison ivy on the other hand gives me fits! The only time I’ve ever received a rash from poison ivy was the one time I knew I was walking through it but I wanted to get to that geocahe and it was surrounded by this irritating plant. Maybe the cache should have had a nigher difficulty rating because of the plant!
Something to keep in mind when dealing with these plants is that they can be irritating even out of season. Poison ivy can be irritating even in the winter. It is the naturally produced oils of poison ivy that can lead to a rash. These oils are present on the outside of the plant including the leaves and other parts of the plant. Handling of wild parsnip can have similar effects as poison ivy and in fact the symptoms are often incorrectly attributed to poison ivy. The sap of the giant hogwood contains the compounds that are hazardous to humans. Contact with all three plants should be avoided at all times.
We have compiled a gallery of images that will help you identify these plants. Take note of the details in the black and white line drawings. It is best to learn the distinguishing characteristics as well as what it looks like. The plant will look different based on the time of year and the lighting conditions present.
The ministry of Agriculture has compiled and excellent resource on weeds. Here are links to the pages for these plants on that site:
You aren’t likely to stop geocaching because of these plants so what can you do to hep prevent any problems from contact with Ontario’s poisonous plants?
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Learn how to identify these plants.
- Wear protective clothing if you know you will be in contact with any of these plants. Be careful removing your protective clothing. Oils and sap will remain on items that have come in contact with these plants.
- Use a commercial treatment ( links provided for convenience, these products have not been tested or endorsed by the OGA)
- As with insect repellant there is a product that claims to protect you from getting a rash should you come in contact with poison ivy. Ivy Block is applied before contact.