Dog owners warned after suspected ‘poison parsnip’ found on Ballygally beach

The suspected 'poison parsnip' found at Ballygally beach. INLT-02-700-con
The suspected 'poison parsnip' found at Ballygally beach. INLT-02-700-con

Dog owners have been warned to be vigilant after a suspected ‘poison parsnip’ , which can prove fatal to pets, was found on Ballygally beach.

The plant, officially named hemlock water dropwart, was found on Ballygally beach by local woman Nicole Guy as she walked her dog on Tuesday January 5.

Nicole then alerted the local council and posted a message on the Ballygally community Facebook page to warn other dog walkers of the potential danger.

Last February, a two-year-old German Shepherd died after picking up a poison parsnip on Drains Bay beach.

The plant, also known as “dead man’s fingers”, is highly toxic to both humans and animals.

It contains the active poison oenanthotoxin, which is particularly highly concentrated in the plant’s roots.

Describing the plant on social media, Nicole revealed:

“It’s like small carrots or parsnip. It’s a red/orange colour and has root-like strands coming from the broader end.”

Nicole said that she had located the plant among stones near the boat house at Ballygally beach.

“They were up there in among the rocks.

“You would definitely not mistake it for seaweed.”

A Mid and East Antrim Borough Council biodiversity officer examined and disposed of the root, but was unable to confirm that the plant was poison parsnip due to erosion and a lack of leaves.

A council spokesperson said that the plant had not been sent away for analysis as they had been advised that “even a laboratory would have difficulty in identifying it.”

However, the council has erected signs at Ballygally and Carnfunnock beaches and Drains Bay to warn of the potential risk.

They state: “Recent storms have exposed the roots of a poisonous plant.

“The roots look like parsnips and should not be handled.

“There is a risk that dogs might play with, chew on or eat these roots and as a result could become ill.

“Please ensure that children and pets do not come into contact with these plant roots.”

Coast Road TUV councillor Ruth Wilson said that recent flooding had resulted in a number of plant roots being washed onto the beach, and urged dog owners to take care.

“I will be pursuing this with the council to check if there is any way to confirm the identity of the plant but I would urge people to proceed with caution until we know,” she said.