Giant hogweed has been spotted multiple regions in the U.S. Keep an eye out for this vicious plant that knows no bounds.
giant hogweed
Credit: Getty Images

If you thought coming down with a case of poison oak was bad, keep an eye out for giant hogweed. Although giant hogweed may be pretty to look at, this beast of a plant is bad news. The carrot cousin has umbrella-shaped white flower clusters—think yarrow or Queen Anne's lace, but way bigger—and can grow up to two and a half feet wide and 14 feet tall. Like poison oak, the sap of giant hogweed is the troublemaker. Triggered by sun exposure, coming in contact with this plant’s sap can cause third-degree burns and even permanent blindness. “Giant hogweed makes poison ivy look like a walk in the park,” officials warned on the Isle of Wight County Virginia Facebook page. Needless to say, this invasive plant is NOT something you want to play with.

Giant hogweed spreads without borders. The clear watery sap of the plant is a force to be reckoned with, containing carcinogenic and teratogenic elements, which in turn can cause cancer and birth defects. In fact, it's so harmful to humans that it's been named a noxious weed by the United States Department of Agriculture. The plant grows along streams and rivers and in fields, forests, yards, and roadsides, and has already been found in states in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, with a sighting in North Carolina.

Recently, a Virginia teen has succumbed to the wrath of giant hogweed. Alex Childress, 17, is a soon-to-be Virginia Tech freshman trying to earn some extra cash as a landscaper this summer. After his face and arm brushed up against the poisonous plant on the job, he began to develop second- and third-degree burns. He was ultimately taken to the VCU burn unit to get treatment for his wounds. Though he expects to make a full recovery, there will likely be lasting scarring on Alex's body. Alex is making an effort to spread awareness of the dangers of the plant so one ends up with the same fate as him.

If you think you've come in contact with giant hogweed, immediately wash the affected area with soap and cold water. Carefully remove all clothing that may have come in contact with the plant and wash thoroughly. Keep the exposed area out of the sunlight for at least 48 hours. If the sap gets into your eyes, rinse with water and wear sunglasses. Immediately see a doctor if any sign of reaction sets in.

Eradication of giant hogweed requires physically removing it while wearing protective clothing or dousing the plant in an herbicide. Whatever the case, do NOT use a weed whacker to remove the plant; this will cause sap to spatter and spread. If you find what looks like giant hogweed in your area, report sightings here.


Be the first to comment!