To learn about the identification of giant hogweed and compare it to common look-alikes, check out the NYDEC site here. In the early 20th century, the herb was introduced to the USA as an ornamental garden plant - the impressively-sized plant's white flower heads can reach two and a half feet in diameter. According to the DEC, the toxic plant grows in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. If the sap gets into anyone's eyes, there is the potential for blindness.
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. These days, it is by far the scariest plant you could find in the Baltic States and Poland, where it's considered highly invasive. The USDA website shows it has also been found in MI and IL.
The plant, which is in the carrot family, cannot only pose a threat to your skin, but it can also impact the environment.
Virginia is now one of the few states in the USA where the plant has been found, and it can grow over 14 feet tall with large white flower clusters that can reach 2 and a half feet in diameter. 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. Seeds are flat, oval and usually tan with brown lines. Second, while the giant hogweed's leaves will be about five feet wide and incised, the leaves of its harmless doppelgänger are about half as wide.
"Giant hogweed reproduces by seed and spreads by seed dispersal, which can be aided by wind, water, people, and animals", Davis said.
The residents of Virginia are warned to not use a weed whacker, lawn mower or a chainsaw in order to remove it, as this can result in the sap getting scattered. Eradication of these plants from the region should only be carried out by physical methods or by making use of herbicides like that of triclopyr and glyphosate.
When the plant was spotted in NY, the state health department recommended that those exposed to the plant cleanse the affected area with cold water and remain out of sunlight. The sap can get sprayed around in a unsafe way.
If you think you've been burned by a reaction after coming into contact with giant hogweed, see a physician immediately. If sap gets into your eyes, rinse them and wear sunglasses.