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Spotted in NY: DO NOT Touch This Plant, You Could Go Blind

21 June 2018

Metzgar says the giant hogweed has been in the United States from Asia for about 100 years.

Warnings have been issued in previous years after discoveries in Michigan, New York and elsewhere in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

"There have been reports from VDOT of sightings of Giant Hogweed in the Staunton area and Middlesex County", Isle of Wight County posted to Facebook. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. It can grow up to 14 feet tall, with thick leaves stretching two to five feet across and large clusters of white flowers gracing the top of the plant in an umbrella pattern.

Virginia Tech researchers advise people to remain on the lookout for Giant Hogweed, but they don't want you to worry too much.

Giant hogweed is one of three plants defined in Virginia as a Tier 1 noxious weed and is heavily regulated.

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Giant hogweed is so unsafe because it releases a sap that contains chemicals called photosensitizing furanocoumarins. It's also been found in six areas across Blowing Rock in Watauga County since 2010. You could also soak a compress in a mixture of aluminum acetate, which is available at most pharmacies, if you think you've come into contact with the hogweed.

Exposure to sap produced by the giant hogweed plant can, in conjunction with sunlight and moisture, cause serious skin and eye irritation, blistering, scarring and even blindness, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to the health department, if someone comes in contact with the toxic plant, it should be immediately washed off with cold water and not come into contact with the sun.

These pesky plants spread when birds and waterways carry seeds to new locations. Instead, seek advice from professional plant control specialists. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. And if the sap gets in your eyes, rinse them out as soon as you can, put on sunglasses and call your doctor.

Spotted in NY: DO NOT Touch This Plant, You Could Go Blind