Dangerous plant that could cause burns, blindness found in Virginia

Dangerous plant that could cause burns, blindness found in Virginia
Published: Jun. 15, 2018 at 4:41 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2018 at 12:46 PM EDT
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ISLE OF WIGHT, VA (WWBT) - An invasive species of plant that can be incredibly dangerous to humans has been spotted in Virginia.

Sap from the Giant Hogweed, which can be between 8 and 14 feet tall, can cause your skin to be severely burned just by sunlight.

If the sap gets into your eyes, it can leave you blind.

Isle of Wight officials posted on Facebook about a possible sighting, while the Virginia Department of Transportation has reported sightings in Staunton and Middlesex County.

"If you have never heard of Giant Hogweed, you're not alone. Giant Hogweed makes poison ivy look like a walk in the park," the post said.

On Monday, a Virginia Tech weed science specialist said "this seems to be an isolated incident."

"It's a dangerous plant but I'm not overly concerned about it," said  Michael Flessner, who is also an assistant professor.

Researchers also say the weeds were likely planted intentionally decades ago and haven't spread in the years since.

"Giant Hogweed also poses ecological impacts by forming tall, dense, and deeply shaded stands that inhibit growth of native species," the Virginia Invasive Species website says. "Soil surfaces under giant hogweed stands become bare and more readily erode in the winter months."

  • Click here to report a sighting of the Giant Hogweed.

The Virginia Invasive Species website says if you see the weed to use protective gear, such as coveralls, rubber gloves and eye protection.

"Do not mow or otherwise cut to control the plant mechanically; this increases the risk of exposure to the plant's sap, and its roots will readily send up a new stalk," the site says. "Place all plant parts inside heavy duty garbage bags for disposal."

Jordan Metzgar, curator of the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech, said property owners should not panic if they think they've spotted the plant.

He says it looks similar in appearance to cow parsnip, a plant that's widespread and native to Virginia.

Giant Hogweed can grow to be up to 14 feet tall while cow parsnip is generally shorter, he said.

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