January 20, 2019

Unsafe plant that can cause blindness, severe burns spotted in Virginia

21 June 2018, 10:25 | Dale Webster

Giant hogweed which has a sap that can cause blisters and even blindness has been reported in Virginia

Giant hogweed which has a sap that can cause blisters and even blindness has been reported in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation needs to hear from you if you happen to spot a huge and striking plant growing in the wild that causes 3rd-degree burns and blindness.

If Hollywood wanted to make a movie about a horrifying plant invasion, giant hogweeds would make a great candidate for the lead role - they are absolutely massive, incredibly toxic, and readily spread wherever their seeds take root.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech last week said that the weed, which originated in Asia, had been seen in Clarke County, in the far north of the state, reported another Richmond TV station, WTVR. The plant - native to the Caucasus - region looks rather benign, however, it's anything but.

The sap of giant hogweed, found in its stem, contains toxic chemicals called "furanocoumarins". If they use this remover, then it may cause the plant sap to break and spread quickly.

Coming into contact with hogweed can be a traumatic experience. "The burns can last for several months and even once they have died down the skin can remain sensitive to light for many years".

The invasive plants also pose an ecological threat, forming tall, dense, and deeply shaded stands that push back the growth of native species.

A giant hogweed stem.

The University of Tennessee Department of Agriculture also lists the plant in its list of invasive weeds in Appalachia.

Giant hogweed had previously been reported in Michigan, New York, Ohio and places in the Northwest, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

The photos posted at bottom of this story depicting burns from giant hogweed are graphic in nature.

Giant hogweed originates from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas by Russian Federation - but it made its way to the the early 20th century.

If you do come into contact with the plant, wash off the sap with cold water immediately and get out of the sun. A toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact. A towel or compress soaked in aluminum acetate, which you can purchase from pharmacies, provides temporary relief for skin irritations. If you somehow get the sap in your eyes, it can blind you.

If you experience severe reactions, visit a doctor immediately.

For more on giant hogweed control, click through to the NYDEC site.

The residents of Virginia are warned to not use a weed whacker, lawn mower or a chainsaw in order to remove it, as this can result in the sap getting scattered. Instead, document it and report it to local environmental authorities.

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