Virginia Officials Warn of Dangerous Invasive Plant

22 June, 2018, 21:41 | Author: Kristi Owen
  • INVASIVE PLANT THAT BLINDS, CAUSES 3RD-DEGREE BURNS FOUND IN VIRGINIA

Touching the plant can cause severe burns, a reaction making skin sensitive to light, and even blindness. It is epidemic in some other states including NY.

Mark Sutphin, an agricultural extension agent with Virginia Tech, said he wrangled a piece of Emma's giant hogweed while wearing a Tyvek suit and goggles, then brought it back to the lab for identification.

The giant hogweed is an impressive-looking plant.

These plants can grow up to 14 feet tall, with thick leaves stretching 2 to 5 feet across.

The spray of white flowers looks similar to Queen Anne's Lace, but the experts at Massey Herbarium note that giant hogweed is much larger, with chunkier leaves.

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


The plant has been spotted in NY but also, Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and parts of the Pacific Northwest.

"The sap contains chemicals that are activated by sunlight", Metzgar said. Furthermore, there are no documented incidents of the hogweed causing permanent blindness, though its capacity to do so is generally undisputed. It can also cause a reaction that leads to painful, dark-colored blisters that come with scars.

Giant hogweed seeds are dispersed across short distances by the wind, but they can make it further if they are accidentally transported in soil.

Giant hogweed is on the Virginia Invasive Plants Early Detection Species list, which means it is not yet widely established in the state but is known to be highly invasive.

"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.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture urged anyone who believes they were in contact with Giant Hogweed to immediately wash the infected areas with soap and water. If you don't look too closely at it its stem, which is covered in purple splotches and coarse hair-like protrusions, the giant hogweed is nearly pretty. A new growth will form and you will put yourself at risk of being exposed to the sap.

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