Published: Thu, June 21, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

The plant giant hogweed burns skin severely

The plant giant hogweed burns skin severely

Giant hogweed originates from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas by Russian Federation - but it made its way to the the early 20th century.

And it's probably already well on its way to Hampton Roads.

The burns can be caused by simply brushing against the bristles, while the sap the plant emits also irritates the skin "causing phototoxicity, severe damage to the skin through exposure to sunlight and UV rays", according to Science Alert.

The Giant Hogweed is now listed on the Virginia Invasive Plants Early Detection Species list, which means that the plant is not widely established in the state but is known to spread in similar habitats to Virginia's.

"This weed is not something to play around with", said Andrea Davis, Virginia Cooperative Extension Horticulture agent in Virginia Beach. 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. Giant hogweed was recently spotted in Virginia for the first time and may also grow in other states. It's also reportable to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

If you do come in contact with the weed, you're advised to wash your hands immediately with cold water and get out of the sun before contacting a healthcare professional.

Other tips include using topical steroids to ease discomfort.

Additionally, if the sap gets in your eyes, it can cause permanent blindness.

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Apply sunscreen to the affected areas if you have some at your disposal.

Once in the water seeds can float and be carried by the current for up to three days.

"Since last Wednesday, I have been responding to email and phone messages from concerned citizens", he said. But since it often grows in areas that are unmanaged, that's unlikely to happen and the spread will continue.

"Heat and moisture (sweat or dew) can worsen the skin reaction".

The leaves can be up to five feet across and the stem, which contains a toxic sap, is hollow and rigid, and has purple blotches and coarse white hairs near its base.

The closely related H. sosnowskyi species, discovered in Georgia in the 1930s, was brought into the Soviet Union for growing as cattle feed.

The giant hogweed plant is originally from the Caucasus region, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea where Europe and Asia meet. 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. "Weed eating or mowing should not be done to plants with a flower or seed head to avoid spreading seed".

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