Beware: This kind of weed can cause burns and blindness

Science								Image Source debs-eye

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a long list of methods for eradicating the plant-and an equally long list of warnings about what can go wrong.

The skin becomes irritated nearly immediately, with blisters typically forming within 48 hours of contact.

Giant Hogweed is commonly found in vacant lots, on roadsides and riverbanks this time of year.

Giant Hogweed plant found in Virgina.

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.

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These pesky plants spread when birds and waterways carry seeds to new locations. About 30 plants were discovered in Clarke County, reads a Facebook post put up within the past week, by the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech University. Giant Hogweed is much larger growing to up to 16-feet. A toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact.

"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. "And, if the sap gets in your eyes, there is the potential for blindness". Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations.

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. "See your physician if you think you have been burned by giant hogweed". If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. The hazardous plant lives 3 to 5 years and is especially hardy, meaning it can grow just about anywhere and is especially hard to remove.

Dr. Jordan Letzgar at Virginia Tech said, "We were able to establish that a previous land owner had planted the plants in the 70's as an ornamental species".

Environmental officials say if you want to remove the plant, do not use a weed-whacker, because the plant's sap can splatter and then spread quickly.

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