Risky giant hogweed found in Virginia; can cause blindness, severe burns

Federico Mansilla
Junio 18, 2018

According to the county, some complications if anyone comes into contact with a Giant Hogweed includes, varying skin reactions, but phytophotodermatitis can occur, meaning the sap makes the skin so sensitive to sunlight that sever burns can occur from normal exposure to the sun.

More alarmingly, if the sap gets into a person's eyes, there is the potential for blindness, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. This will cause the plant's sap to splatter and spread quickly.

A Facebook post from Isle of Wight County in Virginia displays several photos of the rapid progression of blistering on the hand of someone affected by toxins from giant hogweed.

NY state's Department of Environmental Conservation lists other hazards that can result from coming in contact with the plant (as well as some photos of bad burns), including long-term sunlight sensitivity, oozing blisters, scarring, and even permanent blindness if the sap makes its way into one's eyes. Warnings have been issued in previous years after discoveries in Michigan, New York and elsewhere in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest. In the early 20th century, the herb was introduced to the United States as an ornamental garden plant - the impressively-sized plant's white flower heads can reach two and a half feet in diameter.

The giant hogweed plant itself (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is technically a biennial or perennial herb in the carrot family. The plant can grow up to up to 14 feet, creating a lot of shade in the area and inhibiting the growth of native species. At least 30 plants were found at a site in Clarke County. The stem will be hollow and rigid, and even have purple blotches and coarse white hairs near the base of the plant.

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Until recently, there were no confirmed cases of giant hogweed in Virginia, according to officials.

A number of plants are often confused with giant hogweed, including cow parsnip, angelica, Queen Anne's lace, wild parsnip, and poison hemlock.

Any who discovers the weed is advised not to touch it.

Virginia residents are warned not use a weed-whacker to remove the plant.

Authorities say that if you are exposed to the sap, your first goal should be to get out of the sunlight and into shade, immediately if not sooner. Instead, the plant should either be pulled up using protective clothing or destroyed by use of herbicides.

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