Renegade parsnips


Anthony Shostak couldn’t figure out what was giving him a rash in his backyard in Greene, so he sought answers scientifically.

“I took clippings from some plants I didn’t recognize and rubbed them on my skin to find out what was causing the problem,” he said.

Turns out the culprit was wild parsnip, a celery-like plant with yellow flowers that is a close relative of Queen Anne’s lace.

“Since I’ve identified it in my backyard, I’ve started seeing it everywhere,” Shostak said. He’s seen it growing along roads, in ditches and out in the woods.

Wild parsnip (Pastinaca Sativa) is considered an exotic weed in several states, mostly in the Midwest. In Ohio, it’s listed as a noxious weed, with laws on the books designed to limit its spread.

Maine horticultural officials take a more relaxed view of the tuber. Lois Stacks of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension says it’s a common domesticated parsnip that’s escaped the garden.

State horticulturist Anne Gibbs says it’s a cousin to the noxious giant hogweed, one of the most notorious weeds on the state’s list of herbal threats. Like the giant hogweed, the sap of the wild parsnip can cause blisters and scarring. However, the parsnip’s root is edible, she said.

Shostak wrote to the Sun Journal when he found the weed growing in masses on his property. He considers it a dangerous, invasive plant that ought to be avoided.

“People in Maine know what poison ivy looks like,” he said. “But this looks like a common plant and spreads really quickly. I don’t think most people realize just how nasty this stuff can be and how quickly it can cause blisters.”

– Scott Taylor
Notoriety till the cow comes home

After reading a feature in the Sun Journal about Ripley’s Believe It or Not! tales from Maine, retired car dealer Phil Lenentine said his son reminded him how word of the Calais man accepting a cow as down payment for a car leaked out.

It happened when the cow got out of its makeshift corral beside the dealership and ran away.

Lenentine approached the local radio station and put out a sort of all-points bulletin for the missing bovine.

“We were missing it, gosh, two full days before someone happened to spy the cow,” he said.

In those two days, the media, which he figures “monitor all the stations for crazy stuff going on,” found out about the odd swap. Lots of “he did whats?” later, Lenentine and the cow were making headlines worldwide.

– Kathryn Skelton
Dueling tape recorders

On Wednesday Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell was being interviewed about a mother who was charged with using her 10-year-old stepdaughter to steal a cartload of clothes from Wal-Mart.

He was asked by a reporter if he minded being taped for possible use on the Sun Journal’s Web page.

“It’s OK,” Crowell said. “I’m recording you, too.”

– Bonnie Washuk