GENESEO – Volunteers were digging in the dirt this month at the John W. Chanler Island Preserve on Cavalry Drive, working to remove wild parsnip.

“It is an invasive plant that came over from Europe in the 1800s,” said Land Steward Lina Clifford.

The plant is easy to spot. It can grow up to five feet in height and the large flowering yellow petals tend to bloom anytime from June to mid-July. The leaves are round in a basal rosette, and the stem is hollow.

“If we did not manage it, it would probably out compete some of the native plants,” said Clifford.

Wild parsnip is an invasive species in the Giant Hogweed family and has sap that can produce blisters and rashes if it comes in contact with skin.

“It removes your skin’s ability to deflect UV rays,” said Clifford.

Volunteers working July 1 to remove the plant were encouraged to wear gloves, long pants and long sleeve shirts. Clifford said the plant’s flowers are not the problem, but the sap that is produced is. “If you get the sap on you it can cause pretty bad burns on you if you are in the sun,” said Clifford.

Pets and children can also suffer skin damage from the plant.

To stop the spread of the plant, volunteers were digging them up and then safely disposing the plants into trash bags.

“It is similar to carrots. It is just digging two or three inches under the ground to cut the top root and then pulling it out. After we pull it out we will bag all of them and take them out so that the seeds do not spread,” said Clifford.

About six people came out to volunteer and for about an hour and a half they worked to remove as many plants as they could. For some it was not only a chance to remove an invasive plant but to also help the community.

“I wanted to help out. My dad told me about this and I thought it would be a good idea to join,” said Rafael Rutigliano of Geneseo.

Others said it was an opportunity to protect the existing plants and learn new skills.

“Mainly to help the community, but it also helps with school things and it looks good on resumes, too. We should protect the community and the plants that are supposed to be here,” said James Thomas of Geneseo.

Volunteers said they are not sure what impact if any the plant has on wildlife, but are hoping by removing it the Island Preserve will become a safer place for the people who enjoy visiting it.

“I know that a lot of people use the Island Preserve for walking, hiking and bird watching. Its nice to make it a safer place ecologically for visitors,” said Clifford.

John W. Chanler Island Preserve is at 8 Cavalry Drive, Geneseo, across from Geneseo Central School. It is one of several preserves maintained by the Genesee Valley Conservancy.

Rafael Rutigliano from Geneseo came out with his father to the Island Preserve in Geneseo on July 1. Together they were working to remove the wild parsnip, which is an invasive plant. Rutigliano is hoping more young people like him will come out to protect the environment.

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