Giant hogweed, an invasive plant, was recently discovered in Virginia for the first time.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech last week said that the weed, which originated in Asia, had been seen in Clarke County, in the far north of the state, reported another Richmond TV station, WTVR.
Not only does the Giant Hogweed result in severe painful blisters and varying skin reactions, but when the sap comes in contact with a person's eyes, there are possible chances of blindness, as per the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
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A unsafe and invasive plant that can cause third-degree burns and permanent blindness has been spotted in Virginia.
If you come across this plant, you can report sightings of an invasive species here. According to the DEC, the toxic plant grows in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. If hogweed sap gets into the eyes, rinse them with water immediately, put on sunglasses, and contact your health care provider. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. In the early 20th century, the herb was introduced to the United States as an ornamental garden plant - the impressively-sized plant's white flower heads can reach two and a half feet in diameter. The toxic furanocoumarins are present in all parts of the plant: The lower parts of the hollow stems and petioles may be partly filled with sap, and the hollow hairs on the plant also contain sap.
Hogweed is in the carrot family and can grow 14 feet or taller. One plant was found in Clarke. "Just based on numbers, if you find a big plant with white flowers that you think is giant hogweed, there's a pretty decent chance it's cow parsnips", Dr. Metzgar tells me. The Massey Herbarium said it appeared the previous landowner planted the giant hogweed at the site for ornamental reasons.
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Don't remove giant hogweed by using a weed eater or brush cutter because this may "splatter" the sap and release seeds, which could promote new growth.
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.
There are specific procedures that need to followed to be sure the plants are killed, and there are certain herbicides that are legal for use by a licensed pesticide applicator.
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After a burn, skin can be especially sensitive to sun exposure for several years.