Plant that causes 3rd-degree burns, blindness spreads

Henrietta Brewer
June 20, 2018

The Virginia Tech group posted photos of the plant on Facebook, urging anyone who comes across a giant hogweed plant to report it - and be careful not to touch it.

As per CBS, the researchers have discovered just a single sighting of the plant in Clarke County, however, they have said that the invasive plant are also spread across Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

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.


NY state's Department of Environmental Conservation lists other hazards that can result from coming in contact with the plant (as well as some photos of bad burns), including long-term sunlight sensitivity, oozing blisters, scarring, and even permanent blindness if the sap makes its way into one's eyes. She wrote while the US Department of Agriculture's plants database said no species of the plant have been detected in Virginia, sources suggest otherwise. However, as reported, the population of this extremely unsafe plant could even be noticed in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Today I helped ID VA's first giant hogweed population!

If the sap gets into the eye, it can even lead to blindness. In the early 20th century, the herb was introduced to the United States as an ornamental garden plant, as its impressive white flower heads can reach 2 1/2 feet in diameter.


The invasive plants also pose an ecological threat, forming tall, dense, and deeply shaded stands that push back the growth of native species. The stem will be hollow and rigid, and even have purple blotches and coarse white hairs near the base of the plant.

While giant hogweed was often planted for ornamental reasons, it can spread if soil containing the plant or its seeds are moved, or if the wind or a person or animal carries seeds to a new location.

"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", the NY advisory said.


If you accidentally come in contact with sap from the giant hogweed plant, doctors recommend that you wash it off immediately with cold water. The sap can get sprayed around in a unsafe way. "The phototoxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact, with sensitivity peak between 30 minutes and two hours after contact".

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