Once you have an infestation, it takes a lot of work to control the giant hogweed to prevent its spread, as its seeds - each plant can shed thousands - remain viable in the soil for several years. The plant is native to Asia and was introduced into the U.S.in the early 1900s for use in ornamental gardens, according to the USDA.
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 awful burns), including long-term sunlight sensitivity, oozing blisters, scarring, and even permanent blindness if the sap makes its way into one's eyes. These days, it is by far the scariest plant you could find in the Baltic States and Poland, where it's considered highly invasive. The USDA website shows it has also been found in MI and IL.
The plant, which is in the carrot family, cannot only pose a threat to your skin, but it can also impact the environment.
Massive leaves can stretch five feet across. The plants have hollow stems that are generally 2 to 4 inches in diameter, with dark purple and red raised spots and bristle-like hairs.
"There have been reports from VDOT of sightings of Giant Hogweed in the Staunton area and Middlesex County".
A number of plants are often confused with giant hogweed, including cow parsnip, angelica, Queen Anne's lace, wild parsnip, and poison hemlock.
Since the discovery, others have reported giant hogweed sightings, but Martin said the Berryville plant is the only confirmed sighting. The sap can get sprayed around in a risky way. Instead, use an herbicide or, better yet, use a backhoe to dig it up.
If you or someone you know brushes against one of these plants, experts recommend immediately washing the affected area with soap and cold water and keeping that skin out of the sun for at least 48 hours (the reaction can begin within 15 minutes of exposure). Topical steroids can reduce the severity of the burns.
Authorities say that if you are exposed to the sap, your first goal should be to get out of the sunlight and into shade, immediately if not sooner.
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