Toxic plant that burns skin, causes blindness spreading in U.S.

Toxic plant that burns skin, causes blindness spreading in U.S.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a long list of methods for eradicating the plant-and an equally long list of warnings about what can go wrong.

The threat of giant hogweed is stubborn, since its seeds can remain dormant in the soil for up to 15 years.

Metzgar recently helped identify a patch of giant hogweed in Berryville, Va. This plant grows up to the height of 14 feet with thick leaves stretching 2 to 5 feet across and large clusters of white flowers in an UMBRELLA PATTERN. Hogweed has been a problem plant in Pennsylvania and NY but had not been seen so far south in the USA, until now, as The Post reported this week.

Though common in NY state, which has spent millions fighting the plant, and elsewhere in the Northeast, the giant hogweeds in Berryville and Frederick County are the plant's first known locations in Virginia. In extreme case, it can cause blindness.

"Remember that giant hogweed is very similar to the widespread species cow parsnip", which is native to Virginia, the Massey Herbarium said on Facebook. A person should also apply sunscreen to the affected area.

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Compressed soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture that is available at pharmacy provide relief form skin irritation. If hogweed sap gets into the eyes, rinse them with water immediately, put on sunglasses, and contact your health care provider.

Giant hogweed is native to Southwest Asia, he said, and was first seen in the United States in 1917, when it was brought in for ornamental reasons. The hazardous plant lives 3 to 5 years and is especially hardy, meaning it can grow just about anywhere and is especially hard to remove.

Giant hogweed grows best in the borders between forests and open areas, particularly along roads and streams.

In the rare event you might spot this plant, report it to your local extension agent or the Virginia Department of Agriculture. Metzgar says these plants are not highly proliferous as evidenced by the fact these have been there since then and have not been found anywhere else.

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