Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Invasive plant can cause severe burns, blindness

Credit MaxPixel Credit MaxPixel
Ben Pena | 20 June, 2018, 15:48

There has been reports of giant hogweed in Australia with the plant collected in Adelaide in 2007, according to the Department of Environment and Energy.

Giant hogweed, which is now federally classified as a noxious weed, has been found in Virginia for the first time, the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech announced last week.

Experts said the plant has a toxic sap that can cause severe health hazards. If you think you may have crossed paths with giant hogweed, do your fellow hikers a solid and make sure to report it as an invasive species to your local government ASAP. This is the first reported sighting of giant hogweed in Virginia, following past discoveries in NY and the Pacific Northwest.

To learn about the identification of giant hogweed and compare it to common look-alikes, check out the NYDEC site here.

Contact with the plant or its sap, combined with exposure to the sun, can produce third-degree burns and permanent blindness, according to officials. So if you call any of those locations home (or a vacation destination), it can't hurt to commit a few distinguishing features of the plant to memory.

The giant hogweed plant itself (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is technically a biennial or perennial herb in the carrot family.

If you experience severe reactions, visit a doctor immediately.

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The plant spreads by birds and waterways carrying its seeds, which can grow for 10 years when they find soil. It features green and purple-splotched stems covered in white hairs, huge incised leaves up to 5 feet across and a mushroom-like canopy top with 50 to 150 individual white flowers.

A number of plants are often confused with giant hogweed, including cow parsnip, angelica, Queen Anne's lace, wild parsnip, and poison hemlock.

Don't be fooled by it's interesting appearance, a large stalk with huge leaves and umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers, this noxious weed is extremely risky, and can cause 3rd degree burns.

"Giant hogweed reproduces by seed and spreads by seed dispersal, which can be aided by wind, water, people, and animals", Davis said. Instead, the plant should either be pulled up using protective clothing or destroyed by use of herbicides.

If a reaction occurs, topical steroids applied early can reduce its severity and ease discomfort.

If sap gets into your eyes, rinse them and wear sunglasses. "The burns can last for several months and even once they have died down the skin can remain sensitive to light for many years".

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