Health

Invasive plant can cause severe burns, blindness

BERRYVILLE, VA (AP/WCMH) — Giant hogweed, an invasive plant that can produce severe burns and blisters, has been spotted for the first time in Virginia.

Mark Sutphin, an agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension, said Monday the weed's presence was confirmed in Berryville several days ago. He said a previous property owner planted it as an ornamental.

Debra Martin, a program manager with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said officials are formulating a plan to respond to the discovery.

Since the discovery others have reported giant hogweed sightings, but Martin said the Berryville plant is the only confirmed sighting. The plant can be confused with cow parsnip, which is native to Virginia.

Giant hogweed is on the federal and Ohio noxious weed lists. It is illegal to propagate, sell or transport the plant, according to the Ohio State University Extension. It is on those lists because it can crowd out native plants and create a health hazard.

A single giant hogweed plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds.

The sap of a giant hogweed plant causes a skin reaction called phyto-photodermatitis, according to OSU Extension. This condition makes the skin highly sensitive to ultraviolet light. Contact with the eyes can cause temporary or permanent blindness.

It can be identified by a large compound umbel of white flowers, large, deeply incised leaves and prominent white hairs and purple blotches on its stems, according to OSU Extension.

In Ohio, giant hogweed is typically found in northeast Ohio, especially in counties bordering Pennsylvania.

Other plants, such as wild parsnip, are also seen in Ohio and have similar effects.


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