Invasive plant can cause severe burns, blindness

Giant hogweed has previously been found in Michigan, Illinois, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington.

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

Giant Hogweed plant found in Virgina. It can grow up to 14 feet tall, with thick leaves stretching two to five feet across and large clusters of white flowers gracing the top of the plant in an umbrella pattern.

The sap of this plant contains toxic chemicals known as photosensitising furanocoumarins.

The latest sighting of this GIANT HOGWEED found in Clarke County, Virginia. If the sap comes in contact with eyes, the Furocoumarins can cause temporary and potentially permanent blindness.

While the situation in Virginia seems to be under control, hogweed, which is native to Asia and was introduced to the U.S.in 1917, can be found in quite a few East Coast states - it's especially prevalent in NY - as well as a handful of others across the country.

Metzgar recently helped identify a patch of giant hogweed in Berryville, Va. According to the Isle of Wight County Facebook page, there have also been reported sightings in the Staunton area and Middlesex County. 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.

"In brief, the sap prevents your skin from protecting itself from sunlight, which leads to a very bad sunburn", according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Seek advice from professional plant control specialists about management options. "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". If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers.

In the rare event you might spot this plant, report it to your local extension agent or the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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