Unsafe giant hogweed found in Virginia; can cause blindness, severe burns

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But woe to the person who touches the hogweed-it is a noxious plant that can cause severe burns and blindness. It is epidemic in some other states including NY.

The latest confirmed sighting of giant hogweed in Clarke County, Virginia. Dr. Jordan Metzgar with Virginia Tech's Massey Herbarium says there are about 30 Clarke County plants and a previous property owner planted them there as ornamentals in the 1970s.

The giant hogweed is an impressive-looking plant.

The massive stalks can grow from 7 to 14 feet tall, and the leaves can stretch five feet across.

"Remember that giant hogweed is very similar to the widespread species cow parsnip", which is native to Virginia, the Massey Herbarium said on Facebook. Its large size can block sunlight, killing off smaller native plants that grow at ground level, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The risky plant also grows in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Giant hogweed is so unsafe because it releases a sap that contains chemicals called photosensitizing furanocoumarins. If the sap comes in contact with eyes, the Furocoumarins can cause temporary and potentially permanent blindness. "Symptoms include painful blisters, which become darkly pigmented and can cause scars".

Giant hogweed seeds are dispersed across short distances by the wind, but they can make it further if they are accidentally transported in soil.

According to state's Department of Environmental Conservation, the giant hogweed is unsafe, an invasive weed that has been recently spotted spreading across ny. You could also soak a compress in a mixture of aluminum acetate, which is available at most pharmacies, if you think you've come into contact with the hogweed.

If contact is made with the plant, immediately wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and keep the area away from sunlight for 48 hours, the agency recommends. Seeds can grow for 10 years once they're dropped off. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. Instead, seek advice from professional plant control specialists. Giant hogweeds have also been known to plague Washington and Oregon.