When I drove around the corner from Main Street onto River Road the other day, many tall yellow flowers caught my eye. Why didn't I see this plant last year the many times I walked to town? There are so many plants of this species there now, they must have been there.
This is a "lifer," but not a welcome one. "Biodiversity" is not a good thing when it means another non-native plant, and this one is a doozy!
A couple of years ago I heard about someone cutting roadside plants up in North River and getting a really nasty allergic reaction on their arms-red, swollen, itchy and big blisters. These plants caused the problem. They are about four feet tall, are in the parsley family so they have highly dissected leaflets; they have ribbed stalks, and tiny yellow flowers in a flattish umbel-which is a cluster of flowers whose stalks all start from the same place, like Queen Anne's Lace.
If you see any of these you should notify the town highway supervisor who will warn his crew to be careful cutting along the roadside. I cut most of the flowering stalks wearing gloves, long sleeves and long pants, but left one flowering stalk for him to see at the corner of Main and River Road just over the guardrail. But Google it if you want to see a picture.
So, by Wednesday I had tiny non-itchy blisters on the underside of my left forearm. That's not how poison ivy starts for me, and I hadn't been in any that I knew of. I get a few very itchy blisters. In a couple days my arm developed be red patches and blisters, but it still hardly itched at all. In another couple days I developed some red rash on the tops of my feet, and when I finally looked, I had red spots all over my body, but not blisters. Never in my life.
But, here's the thing: wild parsnip has a photo-sensitizer in the juice of the stems. You can brush the undamaged plant with bare skin and nothing happens. And also nothing happens until sunshine hits that area on your body and you get a red and painful sunburn! Nothing like that in my case. Prednisone is fixing me up but I have no idea what caused the blisters.
Another new invasive for me on my road is garlic mustard. There were a few healthy plants on dirt that had been moved in from elsewhere, I guess. It has tiny white flowers with four petals, is often three feet tall, and the leaves are pointed, triangular, coarsely toothed, and smell of garlic when cut. It can be eaten, but it has the bad habit of spreading throughout a hardwood forest, shading out all the spring ephemerals we look forward to every year - hepatica, spring beauty, trout lily, yellow, white and purple violets, trillium, Dutchmen's britches, squirrel corn, Jack in the pulpit and many others.
A plant I have been worried about for many years is now really taking off across the road - Japanese barberry. It has those beautiful shiny red berries in the fall but the birds or other animals must eat and deposit them around in the woods. Nurseries are still selling them and people planting them - including in front of Tannery Pond CC and the library! A little farther south barberry is taking over the understory of forests, making a stickery thicket that nothing can penetrate.
Except deer mice, who think it is a good thing, and they live safely under it. Of course deer mice carry deer ticks which carry Lyme disease. It has been noted that where there are barberry thickets, there is more Lyme disease. And it is a dangerous disease we will need to be able to recognize as winters continue to warm and ticks to survive farther north.
So - who cares about invasive non-natives? I do, and you will too if you get mixed up with wild parsnip. Or with a friend's suggestion for my problem, Giant Hogweed! That is actually still being planted in people's gardens because it is so impressive, but it has the same photo-sensitizing effect. Google that one too.