Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Alaskan kids are taught early on to stay away from "pushki". Pushki (or cow parsnip as it is more officially known) is a bountiful weed that can take over entire sections of a yard. If chopped down, it comes back even worse, and often grows extremely tall, as evidenced below.

Pushki is not only a gardening nuisance, but it also very dangerous. The plant leaks out a juice that seems harmless until sunlight touches it. Then it burns, and sometimes blisters. My boss knew a child who was playing in it one day and the juice was all over his face. When the sun peeked out, it scarred him horribly, and 20 years later, he still has those scars.

Pushki is everywhere here. It is annoying on hiking trails, but you have to either avoid it, or go through it. 

The flowers are deceptively pretty, just begging for someone to pick them. I heard recently that one of the leading causes of local tourists going to the ER is from pushki burns, because they do not know any better.

In fact, I was asked a couple of weeks ago about it. The lady was curious about the "big leaves" and thought it was a type of rhubarb. She was interested in making jam out of it. I quickly discouraged her, but how many other people would assume it was safe to use and end up in trouble from it?

I guess this is just a public service announcement to give it a wide berth if you come to visit!