Home Health News Invasive Plant That Can Cause Burns And Blindness Spotted In Virginia: What To Know About Giant Hogweed

Invasive Plant That Can Cause Burns And Blindness Spotted In Virginia: What To Know About Giant Hogweed

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Left to thrive, the giant hogweed can reach up to 14 feet tall. It is federally listed as a noxious weed that can turn invasive if left unchecked.  
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A plant that’s federally listed as a noxious weed has been spotted in Clarke County, Virginia. Other states are also on the lookout for the weed as it can cause severe burns and even blindness, and can also turn invasive to the local environment if left unchecked.

Giant Hogweed Spotted In Virginia

With the help of experts from the Massey Herbarium, authorities at Clarke County in Virginia have confirmed a sighting of the giant hogweed, a giant weed that can grow up to 15 feet in height, and whose sap can cause serious health hazards.

So far, there is only one giant hogweed sighting in the state, but authorities are on the lookout for possible growths so they can be removed before they become established. In other states such as Washington, Minnesota, and Michigan, authorities are also on the lookout for giant hogweed so as to prevent them from causing harm and invading the local environment.

Burns And Blindness

Skin reactions to the hogweed sap may vary from one person to another, but in some people, it can cause phytophotodermatitis which renders the skin extra sensitive to sunlight that even normal exposure to it can cause blistering and severe burns. Permanent scarring and longer term sensitivity to sunlight may also occur as a result of the exposure. If the sap gets on the eyes, it may cause temporary or permanent blindness, while inhalation may cause respiratory problems.

Exposure to the plant’s sap may be a result of brushing against its bristles, or when the leaves or stem are broken and the sap is exposed. When such exposures happen, it’s important to immediately wash the affected area with soap and water, and to avoid sunlight exposure in the next 48 hours. It’s also wise to contact a healthcare provider, especially in instances of burns.

Invasive Species

The giant hogweed is actually a relative of carrots, parsley, and cilantro, but unlike its relatives, the giant hogweed is more harmful than delicious. Originally from the Caucasus Region in Russia and Central Asia, the plant was introduced into ornamental gardens in Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It has since been considered an invasive species as it thrives in disturbed soil and near waterways where it can disperse its many seeds, potentially overtaking native plants. This is rather problematic as one giant hogweed can produce about 20,000 seeds. If left unmanaged, giant hogweed can form a dense canopy and overtake the native plants of the area, which is why it is important to recognize the plant and remove it properly.

Identifying And Safely Removing Giant Hogweed

Giant hogweed are rather large plants as they can reach heights of between 7 and 15 feet. They have green stems with purple blotches and white hairs especially along the base of the leaf stalks, big, deeply incised leaves that can span 5 feet across, and 50 to 150 white flower rays that are clustered into an umbrella-shaped bunch at the very top.

It’s unwise to use a weed whacker or lawn mower on the giant hogweed as this could only cause the sap to be sprayed everywhere, and the plant would only return. Instead, it would be best to either dig up the roots or spray the plant with herbicides. Either way, it’s important to wear protective clothing that should be immediately washed right after.

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