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Plants that cause burns and blisters

We had an accident a few years ago when my kids got burns and blisters from some of the plants in my garden. The plants that cause burns might not be the ones you think though!

 Plants that cause burns.

Carrots look harmless, but carrot tops can cause burns if exposed to the skin in strong sunlight.


I just love this time of year. We are outside almost all the time and I get to enjoy watching my kids explore the outdoors together. Right now, they are building all kinds of projects with old furniture we plan on driving to the dump. They run around the garden in my husband's old shirts, pretending to wash and dry the old clothes. It looks like so much fun!

As you might know by now,  I make little pallet collar beds for my kids every year. The idea is to give them the chance to grow their own vegetables. This year, they have been minimally interested in growing plants though. The lettuce is completely untouched while large troughs of pea shoots stand around, waiting for the next tea party.


Read more: My daily inspiration, gardening with kids


Dangers in the garden

My kitchen garden is, of course, the perfect playground for my children. We have had a few accidents over the years though. I have written about how one of our kids fell into a large barrel filled with water

Another one tried eating rhubarb leaves and started vomiting quite badly. This little one has been a bit unlucky and was actually stung by a bee under the age of 1 too. The ambulance came quickly and everything worked out ok though.


Plants that cause burns and blisters

Most of the time, our garden is, of course, a safe place for our kids. But we had an especially strange incident a few years ago. We had to go to the doctor, who was also puzzled about what might have happened. All of our (at that time 3 kids) had strange marks on their torsos and arms. It looked as though something very hot had poured down on them. There were no open wounds but plenty of red blisters and burns. The kids were not in pain, but of course, we still wanted to know what on earth had happened.

The doctors at the children's ER took a look at the blisters but they couldn't figure it out. They simply told us that it looked like burn wounds. They didn't seem to think it was very serious though and we simply followed it up over the phone a while later.

It turns out the burns came from parsley and carrot juices that they spilled on themselves when munching on the plants in the garden. I had no idea these plants cause burns. The combination vegetable juice, no t-shirts and plenty of sunlight is not the best combination after all. It took a few months before the blisters and burns started to fade. I actually thought they might stick around longer, but I'm so happy they finally went away of course.



This phenomenon is called phytophotodermatitis. As I understand it, some umbifellers like parsnip, parsley, and carrot, can cause blisters in combination with sunshine. There are of course other plants out there that might cause similar symptoms, for example, diptam (burning bush) and hogweed, but few of us know that we might have plenty of plants that cause burns at home.

I have always been very relaxed about my kids playing in the garden. They can do what they want and eat most of the edible plants we grow here. But ever since this accident, I make sure that they don't play around with carrot greens when they don't have their tops on.

It's not only children that might get affected of course. Simply coming into contact with parsnip tops and getting the juice on your hands can be enough. We took some pictures of the blisters that we got from this but didn't keep them so I can unfortunately not show you what it looked like. And searching the Internet for plants that cause burns, especially parsnip, was difficult.

I hope we can avoid plants that cause burns in the future, especially with our younger kids. Keep your fingers crossed!
/Sara Bäckmo


05. July 2021