Invasive plant that causes third-degree burns found in Virginia

Credit MaxPixel

Credit MaxPixel

Giant hogweed is part of the carrot family, and for a toxic plant, it is surprisingly pretty.

According to the DEC, the plant can grow anywhere between 8 to 14 feet tall when it's flowering. The spray of white flowers looks similar to Queen Anne's Lace, but the experts at Massey Herbarium note that giant hogweed is much larger, with chunkier leaves.

While native to the Caucasus Mountain region between the Caspian and Black Seas, giant hogwood was introduced to the United States as an ornamental garden plant in the early 20th century.

"Giant Hogweed makes Poison Ivy look like a walk in the park". The phototoxic chemicals, known as furanocoumarins, are highly reactive to UV light, causing severe burns and blistering. Specifically, about 30 specimens of the plant were found.

For information on safely handling and eliminating giant hogweed, which requires more than simply cutting it down, Davis suggests reading "Control of Giant Hogweed" from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

The giant hogweed poses a serious human health hazard because it exudes a clear watery sap containing photosensitizing agents.

According to the county, some complications if anyone comes into contact with a Giant Hogweed include varying skin reactions as well as phytophotodermatitis, which occurs when the sap makes the skin so sensitive to sunlight that sever burns can occur from normal exposure to the sun.

If you think you've been burned by a reaction after coming into contact with giant hogweed, see a physician immediately.

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

Apply sunscreen to the affected areas if you have some at your disposal. Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations. That photosensitivity can last for years and if the sap gets into a person's eyes, it can cause permanent blindness.

These pesky plants spread when birds and waterways carry seeds to new locations.

It's important to know how to recognize giant hogweed if you are in a state where it might grow, and what to do if you find it.

Officials warn not to use a weed-whacker to remove the Giant Hogweed because its sap could splatter.

"Weed eating is okay as long as you start when plants are small and continue mowing throughout the season", Davis said. Wash these clothes separately from others with warm water and detergent.

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