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Giant Hogweed, plant that causes third-degree burns and blindness, is spreading

21 June 2018
Giant Hogweed, plant that causes third-degree burns and blindness, is spreading

Researchers at Virginia Tech's Massey Herbarium first reported last week that at least 30 plants were found in Clarke County.

It is included on Alabama's list of noxious weeds but has not been reported in the state. And if you've been potentially exposed to giant hogweed sap, stay out of the sun and see a doctor if you experience a reaction.

"Giant Hogweed" sounds like a mythical plant that the students of Hogwarts may study, but it's real - and it's risky. It is reportedly dormant during the winter, and its flowers form in late spring through mid summer.

A giant hogweed stem. It can be found across counties in New York, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland and other northern areas. It tends to grow in areas with abundant light and moist soil, including along streams and rivers and in fields, forests, yards and roadsides.

These plants had previously been found growing in other states in the Mid-Atlantic and New England - including in New York, Pennsylvania, and MA - and in the Pacific Northwest in OR and Washington. It's identifiable by its clusters of yellow flowers. The umbrella-shaped white in color flora blooms and they can bloom up to two and a half feet wide.

Giant hogweed also produces thousands of dry, flat, oval seeds, which are about three-eighths of an inch long and have brown lines.

However, in severe cases, such as in cases of prolonged exposure to sunlight after exposure to the sap, it can cause third-degree burns, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. The reaction also causes dark, painful blisters, which can leave scars. Long-term sensitivity to sunlight, according to the NYDEC, is common.

An American university says an enormous plant, which causes horrific blisters, could have the potential to blind people. If sap gets into the eyes, rinse them with water, wear sunglasses, and seek immediate medical care. Avoid contact with sunlight for 48 hours. Topical steroids can reduce the severity of the burns.

The plant's sap is so hazardous that it can only be handled with protective clothing and gloves.

The site advises to "call your healthcare provider for any severe reactions or if sap has gotten into your eyes".

"Do not mow, cut or weed whack the plant, as it will just send up new growth and put you at risk for being exposed to sap - the same kind of thing that would happen with poison ivy or sumac". Always call professional authorities to properly dispose of these plants with herbicides or other methods.

Besides being incredibly unsafe, the giant hogweed is also very resilient.