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

Toxic Giant hogweed plant,causing blindness and third-degree burns discovered in Virginia

Toxic Giant hogweed plant,causing blindness and third-degree burns discovered in Virginia

Metzgar says the giant hogweed has been in the United States from Asia for about 100 years. Have you heard of it?

The sap from its leaves is poisonous and causes severe burns to the skin, even blindness.

Giant Hogweed is an invasive plant with some very nasty properties-at worst it can cause 3rd-degree burns and permanent blindness.

Sightings of the giant hogweed have been reported in Virginia, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and parts of the Pacific Northwest, WTVD reports. If the Virginia Cooperative Extension confirms it is hogweed, you are urged to report it to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

So, what's going on?

"It's a unsafe plant but I'm not overly concerned about it".

A single giant hogweed plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds.

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The sap of this plant contains toxic chemicals known as photosensitising furanocoumarins.

The skin becomes irritated nearly immediately, with blisters typically forming within 48 hours of contact. How can I avoid it? If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. The white flowers on top look a little bit like Queen Anne's Lace, and sit kind of like an umbrella over the rest of the plant. Terrifyingly enough, the plant has a history of growing throughout Northeast Ohio, most notably in Pepper Pike. Also, be aware that a toxic reaction can start as soon as 15 minutes after having contact with the plant.

If you believe you've come across giant hogweed, do not try to remove it yourself .

This printable guide will show you the differences. Then, check with your extension office.

Awareness is key. Of course, if you think you've touched the plant and you're having a reaction, call your doctor. This provides some relief for skin irritations.

Is it anywhere other than Virginia? The plants spread when birds or waterways carry the seeds to new locations. The hazardous plant lives 3 to 5 years and is especially hardy, meaning it can grow just about anywhere and is especially hard to remove. The plant is a native of the Caucasus region of Eurasia, between the Black and Caspian seas.

Horticulturists looking for the next ornamental curiosity brought the plant to England in 1817, where it escaped the Royal Botanic Gardens and flourished in the wild.

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