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May 27, 2011  


Take action to avoid these native, exotic plants to minimize health risks

Anyone who spends time outdoors at Fort McCoy is advised to be aware of several hazardous plants.

The plants pose health and safety risks to people and should be avoided, whenever possible, said David Beckmann, installation wildlife biologist.
PHOTO: Wild parsnip can grow as tall as five feet. Photo by Natural Resources Branch
Wild parsnip can grow as tall as five feet. Oils from the plants can cause blisters when contacting exposed skin. (Photo by Natural Resources Branch)

The plants include the native species poison ivy and poison sumac, as well as the invasive, exotic species wild parsnip and leafy spurge.

Detailed information about these plants is available in a brochure at the Installation Safety Office, building 1678.

“We do annual treatments to control the wild parsnip and leafy spurge throughout the installation,” Beckmann said.

“Both of these species also have a negative impact to native ecosystems as well as pose a health concern to people.”

“Wild parsnip is something you see spreading more and more along the roadsides statewide. Because poison ivy and poison sumac are native plants and do not pose an ecological threat, we don’t do a lot of control work on them.”

Beckmann said people who must be out in the field should wear long-sleeved tops and pants, especially if they may be in areas with these plants, to limit the amount of exposed skin that may come in contact with these plants.

Poison ivy and leafy spurge typically are less than two-feet tall or grow low to the ground.

Wild parsnip can grow as tall as five feet and poison sumac can grow up to 20 feet tall.

These plants generate oils (urushiol) or saps that can cause blisters or rashes when contacting exposed skin, he said.

People need to be particularly careful when doing any type of yard work or vegetation clearing with these species.

“If you come into contact with these plants, the best thing is to remove your clothes when you come out of the field and wash them separately in hot soapy water; also wash exposed skin with soapy water to remove any oil or sap,” Beckmann said.

Anyone who believes they are suffering from work- or training-related severe exposure to these plants is advised to see the Occupational Health Clinic (OHC) if they are federal civilian employees, the Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) for authorized military personnel or their health-care providers.

For more information, call Safety at 608-388-3403 or the Wildlife Program at 608-388-5374.

For treatment, call the OHC at 608-388-3209/2414, or the TMC at 608-388-3025.

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