Invasive plant can cause severe burns, blindness

Cesar Mills
June 22, 2018

"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.

The skin becomes irritated nearly immediately, with blisters typically forming within 48 hours of contact.

Giant Hogweed can move into an area and take over.

According to Flessner, if you think you spot Giant Hogweed in the wild, don't panic. Later that day, the organization updated its page to clarify that as many as 30 plants had been found at a private home in Clarke County.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed on Tuesday that giant hogweed, a toxic weed that can grow up to 15 feet tall and resembles the less unsafe cow parsnip, was identified at a private home in Clarke County. 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.

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Though common in NY state, which has spent millions fighting the plant, and elsewhere in the Northeast, the giant hogweeds in Berryville and Frederick County are the plant's first known locations in Virginia.

A single giant hogweed plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds. Also, be aware that a toxic reaction can start as soon as 15 minutes after having contact with the plant. A person should also apply sunscreen to the affected area. Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations.

According to the health department, if someone comes in contact with the toxic plant, it should be immediately washed off with cold water and not come into contact with the sun.

The Giant Hogweed that was identified in Clarke County last week was believed to have been planted intentionally decades ago, and hasn't spread since. The plants spread when birds or waterways carry the seeds to new locations. It was brought to the United Kingdom and to the United States in 1917 as an ornamental plant.

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

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