Giant Hogweed Plant: Summer Plant Causes Burns and Blindness

First Posted: Jun 21, 2013 10:39 AM EDT

With the official first day of summer, new plants may be popping up around the yard. Most fruits and vegetables, in particular, are at their peak during the summer harvest, with an assortment of colors covering many farmers' fields. However, other plants that come around during the sweet summer time are not so welcome. Take, for example, the giant hogweed plant, a potentially dangerous invasive species that can cause burns and even blindness.

According to Yahoo News, this super-sized weed might look impressive, when it reality, touching the up-to-23-feet tall thing can cause a scorching sunburn.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, this can be explained by a chemical in the plant called furocoumarin, which can cause blisters, long-lasting scars, three-years long sensitivity to sunlight on the skin, and as stated previously, blindness.

No matter how silly or innocent looking a plant tends to be, this one, for certain, simply isn't one you want to even try and trim.

The DEC notes that this plant is native to the Caucasus Mountain region, between the Black and Caspian Seas. Back in the late nineteenth century, it was introduced in Europe and the United Kingdom as an ornamental garden plant. (If only they'd known, right?)

It later became established in New England, the Mid-Atlantic Region and the Northwest. The organization notes that "Giant hogweed grows along streams and rivers and in fields, forests, yards and roadsides. It prefers open sites with abundant light and moist soil but it can grow in partially shaded habitats, too."

If you think you've come in contact with a giant hogwood plant, make sure to immediately wash with soap and water, and don't expose the area to sunlight for a full 48 hours. Wash out your eyes with water, and wear sunglasses. Lastly, seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

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