KINGSTON, SD (KIN) – A warning for Kingston visitors: so-called “cow parsnip” may not look like a lot, but it is actually extremely dangerous for people.
It can cause paralysis, cramping and severe pain to someone with weak bones, including those who are wheelchair bound or blind.
The problem has been around since World War II, when people saw farmers in the area harvesting the spice for food.
After cutting down a small piece of land for farming, a farmer left another cut piece up that he had too. The resulting spawn from that one grower’s crop spread and caused headaches across the area.
“A lot of people hit that thing, they hit it hard, it weighs about a hundred pounds,” Spruce said. “It’s a 100 pound stick that is going straight at you.”
This is what big jumbo dickey parsnip looks like, standing about an inch tall. It is a popular street spice sold on sidewalks, in shops and sold as a purchase on drug-dealers websites.
“I sell about six an hour,” Spruce said. “I have a lot of busy regulars.”
The so-called “cow parsnip” is an exotic plant that grows over small areas near people with weak bones. After cutting down a small piece of land for farming, a farmer left another cut piece up that he had too. The resulting spawn from that one grower’s crop spread and caused headaches across the area.
Kingston city leaders are now taking action against the farmer’s crop, located next to their 100-year-old pedestrian park. The city could issue citations as soon as next week for people who are selling or eating the product.
“It’s saying enough is enough, we’re going to take care of this,” City Council Member Nick Boles said. “We’re going to find a solution.”
Spruce fears that the issue may become an everyday occurrence.
“The stalk is only three inches long,” Spruce said. “It’s not going to cause a significant amount of harm. You’re really not going to get hurt just by eating some of it.”
The Mississippi Department of Agriculture is not taking a position on the issue, due to ongoing investigations.
The Kingston police also will start cracking down on people who are selling the product and for not properly disposing of the stalks, that could lead to a fine of up to $2,500.
“We can issue a warning and let the vendors continue, but once we prove that you don’t take care of it, there’s going to be fines and possible citations,” Boles said.