Residents of an Ottawa neighbourhood are taking action against a poisonous plant threatening to take over their community.

Dressed in protective gear, Garry Allen and his family took it upon themselves to remove wild parsnip rapidly growing in a public field near their home in Alta Vista.

“It’s not exactly what the three of us would like to be doing on a beautiful Sunday, but we figured if we didn’t do that this population multiplies from a thousand plants, to a million seeds.” Allen told CTV Ottawa.

Wild parsnip is an invasive and toxic weed that produces sap that may cause blisters and even burns on contact. 

“This plant is going to jump into people’s backyards and into the community gardens,” Allen said.

Allen said he contacted the City of Ottawa about the parsnip, but nothing was done. The city’s website says the municipality “intends to control wild parsnip” by spraying herbicide along rural and suburban roadsides. According to a map posted on the city's website, the city has had a robust strategy for eliminating wild parsnip.

Another major concern for area residents is the lack of signage in the area. While the pathway next to the field where the parsnip grows is popular, most people have no idea that the dangerous plant is there.

“Neighbours are warning each other now, but that isn’t enough,” resident Allan-Paul Dane said.

“My kids and I will often go through this pathway…More signs and more awareness is a good start and it would be nice if the city could figure out a way to get rid of it.”

In the meantime, the community has come together in an attempt to stop the spread of wild parsnip before it gets worse.

“Those seeds will last at least five years.” Allen says.

“There is a good chance if we let that happen, this greenbelt is dominated by wild parsnip.”

Ontario’s Invasive Species Centre says if you do come in contact with wild parsnip, wash the affected skin and clothes thoroughly with soap and water. You should also avoid further exposing the affected area to sunlight.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Leah Larocque