Toxic plant that causes third-degree burns, blindness found in NC

Maricruz Casares
Julio 14, 2018

His literal brush with what was believed to be the "giant hogweed" plant earlier this week left him with serious burns on his face.

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, giant hogweed, or Heracleum mantegazzianum, is a federally listed noxious weed that can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness.

Contact with the plant's sap, in combination with sun exposure, can lead to those extreme conditions.

The teenager was first sent to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, but doctors determined his injuries could best be treated at the Burn Center at VCU Medical Center.

Alex Childress, who lives in the Fredericksburg area, suffered the second- and third-degree burns after the plant touched his body when he discarded it while on a summer landscaping summer job, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

"It's a traumatic experience, but Alex is a tough kid", his father said.

Justin Childress said his son had overcome a bad football injury to become successful in track and wrestling at Spotsylvania High School.

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According to North Carolina State University, giant hogweed is a Class "A" North Carolina noxious weed and is only found in Watauga County.

Alex was given a full-ride scholarship to Virginia Tech with plans to enroll in the Corps of Cadets later this year.

"He was supposed to move-in this August", Mr Childress said.

The hogweed plant can grow up to 14 feet or more, has hollow, ridged stems that grow 2-4 inches in diameter and have dark reddish-purple blotches.

The Childress' hoped others can learn from their son's injuries to be on the lookout for this invasive plant.

The Childress family has set up a GoFundMe page to help in Alex's recovery.

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