Residents of several states in the US are concerned due to the spreading of a certain plant that looks harmless but can cause serious injury to those who touch it. The giant hogweed has been sneakily spreading throughout many states, with Virginia being one of the new ones it has infiltrated. It looks beautiful but is potentially extremely dangerous.
Essentially, the plant is a large weed with white flowers, and it produces a kind of sap that contains photosensitizing furanocoumarins. This chemical is designed to make the plant more photosensitive – and when a human comes into contact with it, the affected area can quickly become overly sensitive to light.
This suddenly added sensitivity works rapidly and can result in long-term skin conditions as well as third-degree burns, and sap that gets into eyes can result in permanent blindness. Here’s how to recognize this plant and what to do if you see one. The giant hogweed measures between 8 and 14 feet in height and has large leaves that can span over 5 feet wide.
These leaves are dark green and lobed in shape. The stem of this weed is hollow and covered in white hairs and little purple speckles, and the weed usually has a cluster of white flowers growing out of the top, curved into an umbrella-like shape. The plant has been spotted in Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, so be on your guard if you live in these states!
If you notice a giant hogweed growing in your own yard, absolutely do not remove it yourself. Do not attempt to cut or mow it, as this only results in renewed growth and even more potential for exposure to the sap. Instead, contact plant control specialists to find out what you can do. If you do have to touch the plant for whatever crucial reason, wear long clothes and rubber gloves.
If the sap gets onto your clothes, take them off very, very cautiously. Do not get any of it on your skin or eyes. Wash the clothes immediately with warm water and detergent in a separate cycle from your other clothing.
But what happens if you do touch giant hogweed by accident with bare skin? Get out of the sun immediately and use cold water and soap to rinse the affected area as soon as possible. Use sunscreen on the area of your skin that has come into contact with the sap and keep it covered for the following weeks or even months when you go out in the sun.
Stay safe out there! Learn more about giant hogweed from this video.
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