One man is waging a wild battle to rid the world of cow parsnip

Written by By Brice Young, CNN

A decade ago, Ramon Ayala kicked up a ruckus when he discovered a number of cow parsnip plants growing on a path leading to the Paseo de la Reforma in Madrid.

The oxpecker plant that produces the parsnip is native to the Mediterranean and central-eastern Europe and is highly toxic.

Ayala started killing the plants and started crusading against local authorities, according to El Pais , the Spanish daily.

The local council, eager to look more serious about the threat to pedestrians, decided to plant the parsnip in fresh soil, away from bike paths and parked cars. But the plants were soon covered in soil and grew back.

Ramon Ayala

Ayala and some members of his community started spreading complaints, and the council finally planted parsnip beds in a well-lighted location.

All was well until this year. This year has seen new outbreaks of fresh parsnip plants on the way to La Paseo de la Reforma, according to El Pais. Ayala has told local media that he’s received letters of complaint from 11 other people who claim to have harmed themselves by the plants, for example after crawling up the stairs to a rooftop.

Spain is prone to parsnip-related incidents. It’s not even a question of how to prevent them, but how many (according to El Pais). Cantabria (Girona and San Sebastian), Valencia, Alicante, and Madrid regularly see complaints about cow parsnip. Though officials are finally taking notice.

Coca-Cola recently made a short video warning about the plant’s dangers. Another local company, Simon plaítoros, are selling olive vinegar infused with parsnip seeds to raise awareness. One coffee store in Madrid has written on its small posterboard hanging inside the store that “All Catholic cities must declare the cow parsnip of the shahada and a plague.”

Spain’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Death Camp Management Center recommends against eating cow parsnip. Dudikin , a Suez Environmental (Itaú) brand, is sold in Spain and includes a disclaimer saying, “Any product that is made in order to defend the soul of dead Jews is forbidden in Israel.” And another product being sold by SIMO in Spain is called “Kosher cow parsnip.”

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