If sap gets in the eyes, it can cause nerve damage and possibly permanent blindness.
What's more, just because you've removed the plant doesn't necessarily mean that you've won the battle.
The Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech said in a Facebook post 30 giant hogweed plants had been discovered in Clarke County, located between Winchester and Leesburg. This plants can also be found in the New York, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, Vermont, New Hampshire and ME, as per CBS.
If you experience severe reactions, visit a doctor immediately. 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 US Department of Agriculture's website shows it has also been found in MI and IL.
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The invasive plants also pose an ecological threat, forming tall, dense, and deeply shaded stands that push back the growth of native species.
Virginia is now one of the few states in the U.S. where the plant has been found, and it can grow over 14 feet tall with large white flower clusters that can reach 2 and a half feet in diameter.
A single giant hogweed plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds. The giant hogweed is also distinguished by a hollow stem - about 2-to-4 inches in diameter - with purple splotches.
It's advised to immediately wash the affected area and limit sun exposure for 48 hours after coming in contact with the plant because of how sensitive the skin is due to the sap. The spray of white flowers looks similar to Queen Anne's Lace, but the experts at Massey Herbarium note that giant hogweed is much larger, with chunkier leaves.
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While giant hogweed was often planted for ornamental reasons, it can spread if soil containing the plant or its seeds are moved, or if the wind or a person or animal carries seeds to a new location. A toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact.
Other tips include using topical steroids to ease discomfort.
If you do come across giant hogweed in the wild, don't touch it-and don't try to chop it down using a weed wacker, as that could potentially spread the sap around. "The burns can last for several months and even once they have died down the skin can remain sensitive to light for many years".
In general, the NY DEC recommends contacting them (or your state DEC outside of New York) for professional removal.
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