Parsnip Predator

Buy your Parsnip Predator online in our eStore.

Watch this short video on how to use it here.

Orders can be picked up at the TPE office in Viroqua, WI to avoid shipping charges.  Prior to coming, contact the office by phone 608-638-1873 or email (bookkeeper@theprairieenthusiasts.org) to ensure your order is ready and someone is there to help.

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The Parsnip Predator is a lightweight specialty shovel made by the Prairie Bluff Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts. The shovel is intended for removing wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) from natural areas like prairie remnants. The Parsnip Predator may also be used for removing other tap-rooted biennial weeds such as burdock (Arctium minus).

The Parsnip Predator’s narrow blade is notched at the tip for easier centering on the root. The D-handle is perpendicular to the blade for better control in the field.

Wild parsnip is not native to North America and is an invasive species here. It is closely related to the domestic garden parsnip. Wild parsnip produces a clear sap that, when dried on the skin and exposed to sunlight, produces irritating blisters similar to poison ivy. The irritation takes at least one day to develop. Severe cases may last many days. If you're handling wild parsnip, we strongly recommend wearing long sleeves, pants, and gloves. We also advise not handling parsnip in the rain as the sap can soak through wet clothing.

(For more about the ecology of wild parsnip, click here.)

To kill wild parsnip, place the Predator blade on the ground about an inch or from the base of the plant. The blade is angled slightly and when pushed sharply into the ground at this slight angle, it intercepts and severs the upper portion of the root crown. Lift the plant straight upward with a gloved hand to remove. If there are seeds on the plant, we suggest removing the stem with seeds to a compost pile so as not to reseed the area. Parsnip seeds degrade effectively in compost piles. This technique requires cutting the parsnip well before the seeds are brown and fall easily from the plant. Plants with no seeds may be left to degrade in the field.

The Parsnip Predator should be considered a slicing tool. The sides have been cut away to facilitate slicing the root easily and accurately, and this means it is not as strong as a full shovel. The architecture and steel formulation of the current base model we use to make the Predator creates a strong but narrow blade. We do not recommend prying with it. We do recommend keeping the notch razor sharp.

The Predator has been produced by volunteers of the Prairie Bluff Chapter for two decades and has been successfully used by weed warriors across the United States. Since its inception, all sales have been -- and will continue to be -- used by The Prairie Enthusiasts solely for protecting and maintaining remnants of prairie.

A note about mowing parsnip infestations: this may inadvertently promote parsnip, if done at the wrong time of year, by lowering the competition around its basal rosette. If mowed too early, flowering plants will resprout and set viable seed.  If mowed too late, the plants' seeds will ripen and get spread by the mower.  If left unmowed during midsummer (a common error now), the plant will set seed in July. Farmers and roadside crews that mow in May and then again in August simply scatter mature seed. The result is a thicket of parsnip along the roads. A similar difficulty presents itself when trying to control parsnip with selective mowing on prairie remnants. The optimum time to mow parsnip in southern Wisconsin, to break its seed production cycle, is in the first two weeks of July.

Burdock (Arctium minus) taproot severed by a Parsnip Predator. Photo by Rob Baller

 

Volunteers from TPE's Prairie Bluff Chapter show off Predators. Photo by Rob Baller

 

Updated 9-6-2020