Noxious weed alert: Giant hogweed spotted in Virginia

NY state's Department of Environmental Conservation lists other hazards that can result from coming in contact with the plant (as well as some photos of bad burns), including long-term sunlight sensitivity, oozing blisters, scarring, and even permanent blindness if the sap makes its way into one's eyes.

More alarmingly, if the sap gets into a person's eyes, there is the potential for blindness, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to the DEC, the toxic plant grows in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The invasive plants also pose an ecological threat, forming tall, dense, and deeply shaded stands that push back the growth of native species.

The University of Tennessee Department of Agriculture also lists the plant in its list of invasive weeds in Appalachia. The Massey Herbarium said it appeared the previous landowner planted the giant hogweed at the site for ornamental reasons.

The plant can grow up to 14 feet high (hence the word "Giant" in its name) and have stems that are two to four inches in diameter.

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.

"It may be possible for hogweed seeds to remain viable in the soil for 15 years", the agency said.

If you do come into contact with the plant, wash off the sap with cold water immediately and get out of the sun. Call your health care provider in case of a severe reaction.

A Facebook post from Isle of Wight County in Virginia displays several photos of the rapid progression of blistering on the hand of someone affected by toxins from giant hogweed. A towel or compress soaked in aluminum acetate, which you can purchase from pharmacies, provides temporary relief for skin irritations.

Environmental officials say if you want to remove the plant, do not use a weed-whacker, because the plant's sap can splatter and then spread quickly. If hogweed sap gets into the eye, rinse with water immediately and put on sunglasses. Seek advice from professional plant control specialists about management options.

Knowing what to look for and how to handle it could help you avoid a serious injury.

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