COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Deadly weeds like poison hemlock and wild parsnip aren’t simply noxious and dangerous; Ohio laws say they must be destroyed.
Some weeds are so toxic that they can injure people and livestock as well as damage farmers’ crops.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture designates about 25 plants as prohibited noxious weeds. The weeds have to be cut or destroyed by law.
What if my neighbor won’t clear noxious weeds?
According to Peggy Kirk Hall with the Delaware County Regional Planning website, the first step is to speak with the neighbor. After that, give a note to the neighbor stating they have 10 days to clear the noxious weeds.
If they don’t take action, let township trustees know. Trustees will decide whether to send a notice to destroy weeds. They also have the power to hire someone to do it.
The property owner listed on the property tax bill will bear the costs for the clearance.
Which weed should I worry about the most?
Noxious weeds have been with Ohioans since the 1800s. “The first flora of Ohio was done in 1860 and in that flora, they mentioned both [poison hemlock and wild parsnip] as being general naturalized in the State of Ohio,” ODNR chief botanist Rick Gardner said.
Gardner explained the characteristics of the most common and dangerous plants in Ohio:
- Poison Hemlock: Smooth stems with purple blotches on the stem. Can grow up to 10 feet tall. White flower clusters on the stem. Leaves are fern-like. Alkaloids in the sap are very toxic, but the sap has to be ingested to have a severe reaction. The sap also causes skin irritation. Be cautious if you come into a grove of it because if the sap gets airborne, the pellets can be dangerous.
- Wild Parsnip: Solid green stem. Clusters of small yellow flowers. Begins to bloom in late May and flowers to July before setting seed. Sap has sorralins which cause blisters on the skin if it comes into contact with light. Leaves and first-year plants are toxic.
- Poison Ivy/Poison Sumac: Poison ivy grows in every habitat in Ohio, but most commonly on edges of woods and fields. Any part of the plant can give you dermatitis, and sensitive people may need cortisone shots. Poison sumac habitats are rare. It’s an attractive shrub with smooth bark that turns golden red in the autumn. Causes a more severe rash than poison ivy. Seek treatment immediately.
How to handle poison ivy
Urushiol oil in poison ivy gets on skin and causes an allergic reaction in many people. For weeding poison ivy, try this hack. You’ll need gardening gloves, nitrile gloves, a plastic grocery bag, and a trowel.
Wear long sleeves, long pants, and nitrile gloves inside of your regular gardening gloves when you clear the plants.
Open a plastic grocery bag and push your hand to the bottom. With the bag covering your hand, take hold of the poison ivy plant in the same way you’d pick up dog feces.
Then with a garden trowel in your other hand, loosen the root from the ground, and carefully fold the plant into the plastic bag. With the plant safely inside, tie off the plastic bag. Take off the gardening gloves and throw them out, or reserve in a marked bag for poison ivy control.
Strip off the nitrile gloves without touching their outsides, and safely put them into the trash. Clothes in contact with poison ivy should be washed separately in a hot wash with plenty of soap.
Never burn poison ivy
For large areas of poison ivy clearance, consider wearing a disposable painter’s cover-all as well as the double gloves, and throw everything away when you are finished.
Both poison ivy and poison sumac cannot be burned. Inhaling the smoke can cause a severe allergic reaction.
After clearing poison ivy, wash yourself and any part of the body that might have had contact with the plant. A dish-soap detergent can strip off oils from urushiol under hot water.
Call 911 if you have trouble breathing or swallowing, swelling especially on the face, or itching over most of your body and can’t get relief.
Attractive berries, deadly results
As described by Gardner:
- Deadly Nightshade: Herbaceous vine. Purple flowers with golden centers. Petals reflect back. Climbs vegetation. Produces small, bright red berries late in summer that are highly poisonous. Seek medical help immediately if you suspect they’ve been ingested.
- Pokeweed: Native to Ohio. Grows along fencerows. Tall, large green leaves, reddish stem at the base. White flowers that become dark purple berries, which look tasty, but are very toxic. Seek medical help immediately if you suspect they’ve been ingested.
Invasive plant vs. noxious weed
Many plants — like poison hemlock — came from Europe to Ohio as garden ornamentals. Large, showy, and fast-growing, what used to be beautiful is now a dangerous pest.
The Ohio Invasive Plant Council keeps a list of invasive plants crowding out Ohio’s native plants. It’s separate from the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s noxious weed list, but just as important.
This year, the council added the Callery, or Bradford, Pear to their list. First brought to North America from China in 1917, it created a blight-resistant strain of fruiting pear.
Starlings love the Callery Pear’s small fruits and spread them, creating thickets that crowd out native plants like serviceberry and wild plum, according to the Ohio Invasive Plant Council website.