Published: Fri, June 22, 2018
Research | By Sheri Schwartz

Invasive plant can cause severe burns, blindness

Invasive plant can cause severe burns, blindness

The latest confirmed sighting of giant hogweed came in Clarke County, Virginia.

Officials are forming a plan to respond to the discovery, said Debra Martin, a program manager with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

According to the Department of Ecological Conservation, the toxic plant can also be found in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and parts of West Virginia.

One of the primary points they mention is that the plants have to be cut after the seeds appear, but before they mature. Contact with the eyes can cause temporary or permanent blindness.

If you suspect you've found a giant hogweed, you're asked to take photos of a leaf, stem and flower and contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office, or fill out an online report.

According to the Isle of Wight County, Virginia, Facebook page, "Giant Hogweed makes Poison Ivy look like a walk in the park".

Besides being a threat to humans, giant hogweed can also impact the environment. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. If you don't look too closely at it its stem, which is covered in purple splotches and coarse hair-like protrusions, the giant hogweed is nearly pretty. Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations. And if the sap gets in your eyes, rinse them out as soon as you can, put on sunglasses and call your doctor. The plants spread when birds or waterways carry the seeds to new locations. The plant is a native of the Caucasus region of Eurasia, between the Black and Caspian seas.

Dr. Jordan Letzgar at Virginia Tech said, "We were able to establish that a previous land owner had planted the plants in the 70's as an ornamental species". Giant hogweed is fast-growing and is known to invade roadsides, the edges of forests and empty lots, the AP said. If necessary, the DNR can even obtain a court order to eradicate it.

Like this: