There are a lot of dangers people need to be aware of when spending time outdoors — things like sunburn, bug bites, and even poison ivy, which at least 85% of people are allergic to. But recently, a new outdoor danger has been appearing in states across the country: Giant Hogweed.
Giant Hogweed is a plant that grows in the wild, and while it features pretty white flowers, touching the plant can actually cause third-degree burns and sometimes even blindness. According to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the plant can grow anywhere between eight and 14 feet tall with leaves five feet wide, which makes it easier to spot.
While the plant is native to Southwest Asia and the Caucasus Mountains, it’s been found in several states in the U.S., including Ohio, Maine, Maryland, Vermont, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and New York.
Despite the harsh effects Giant Hogweed can have on anyone that comes into contact with it, the plant is quite distinctive and can be easy to avoid. But if someone does come into contact with the plant, they could experience little to no effects or extreme effects, depending on the person. If the sap gets in a person’s eyes, they could experience blindness. And if the sap touches the skin, a person could experience phytophotodermatitis, which makes the skin so sensitive that severe burns can occur from simply being in the sun. Unfortunately, this condition can last several years and may cause someone to join the 1.5 billion people who suffer from chronic pain around the world.
To get rid of the plants, officials are using herbicides and cut the plants’ roots to avoid them spreading. However, there are more Giant Hogweed plants in the country than previous years — 2011 saw only 55 sightings of the dangerous plant while there were almost 500 in 2017.
If you find Giant Hogweed sites, officials urge people to not use weed whackers to try to remove the plant. When using aggressive tools like weed whackers, the sap could splatter and hit anyone nearby. This is why the plant should only be removed by professionals, so they can use the proper tools and methods to remove the plant safely.
So because it is becoming more possible that people can come into contact with this plant, officials are urging people to be aware of what the plant looks like so they can avoid it. Anyone who does spot the plant should contact local officials so it can be taken care of quickly.