Toxic plant that burns skin, causes blindness spreading in U.S.


Besides being a threat to humans, giant hogweed can also impact the environment. It is epidemic in some other states including NY.

The plant has been spotted in NY but also, Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and parts of the Pacific Northwest.

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It can be identified by a large compound umbel of white flowers, large, deeply incised leaves and prominent white hairs and purple blotches on its stems, according to OSU Extension.

The sap of this plant contains toxic chemicals known as photosensitising furanocoumarins. About 30 plants were discovered in Clarke County, reads a Facebook post put up within the past week, by the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech University.

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Giant hogweed is one of three plants defined in Virginia as a Tier 1 noxious weed and is heavily regulated.

The New York State Department of Health also recommends applying sunscreen to the affected areas, since this can prevent further reactions if you're stuck outside. Trying to cut the plant with a mower or a weed-whacker can be extremely risky, as it could cause the sap to spray onto the operator. Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations. He said the plant is easily mistaken for cow parsnips, but gardeners who aren't sure what they're looking at should back away and contact their local Virginia Tech agricultural extension agent or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. Seeds can grow for 10 years once they're dropped off. Officials stressed that giant hogweed must only be handled while wearing protective clothing such as eye protection, overalls and rubber gloves. Instead, seek advice from professional plant control specialists. "If you get sap on your clothes, carefully remove the clothing to avoid skin and eye contact and wash separately from other clothing with warm water and detergent".

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If you come across this plant, you can report sightings of an invasive species here.