QR.bizNewsBeware: This kind of weed can cause burns and blindness

Beware: This kind of weed can cause burns and blindness

Metzgar recently helped identify a patch of giant hogweed in Berryville, Va.

Officials are forming a plan to respond to the discovery, said Debra Martin, a program manager with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Giant hogweed is so unsafe because it releases a sap that contains chemicals called photosensitizing furanocoumarins.

Giant hogweed seeds are dispersed across short distances by the wind, but they can make it further if they are accidentally transported in soil. If a person gets sap in their eyes, blindness can also occur. The white flowers on top look a little bit like Queen Anne's Lace, and sit kind of like an umbrella over the rest of the plant.

Giant hogweed is one of three plants defined in Virginia as a Tier 1 noxious weed and is heavily regulated.

The weed isn't called giant for nothing. "The phototoxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact, with sensitivity peak between 30 minutes and two hours after contact".

If you believe you've come across giant hogweed, do not try to remove it yourself .

The unsafe plant also grows in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations.

Giant hogweed is native to Central and Southeast Asia.

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

Horticulturists looking for the next ornamental curiosity brought the plant to England in 1817, where it escaped the Royal Botanic Gardens and flourished in the wild. It is native to the Caucasus Mountain region between the Black and Caspian Seas and grows along streams and rivers, and in fields, forests, yards and along roadsides.

"In brief, the sap prevents your skin from protecting itself from sunlight, which leads to a very bad sunburn", according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

Even so, it might take several years to eradicate a stand of Hogweed by mowing.

Roel_Meijer—Getty Images  iStock

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