Kill The Giant – Goliath Poisonous Plant Invades Canada And US

Blindness, Burns and Blisters - Government On The Hunt

Today the Inquistr reported, “It’s time to watch out for the giant hogweed plant, a dangerous invasive species that can cause burns and blindness. Newsytype.com advised “Cnadian writer Steph Willems has likened the invasive giant hogweed to Triffids, the giant, deadly plants that proliferate and prey on a world of blind people in John Wyndham’s 1951 novel “Day of the Triffids.” Yahoo News reported Thursday that the super-sized weed may look like an impressive stand of Queen Anne’s lace. But if you touch the up-to-23-foot tall giant, you may suffer from long-lasting sensitivity to sunburn.

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Giant hogwood reaches up to 20 feet at maturity.
Giant hogwood reaches up to 20 feet at maturity.

The U. S. Department Of Environment Conservation (DEC) warns, “Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a federally listed noxious weed. Its sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause phyto-photodermatitis or severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness. Contact between the skin and the sap of this plant occurs either through brushing against the bristles on the stem or breaking the stem or leaves.” Scientists report some people are exposed and not even aware their terrible skin lesions are related to the plant: burns can linger for several months and even once they have died down the skin can remain sensitive to light exposure for many years.

hogweed_child_burns.ashxThe DEC advises on what you should do if you encounter the invasive goliath say, “Immediately wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and keep the area away from sunlight for 48 hours. This plant poses a serious health threat. Consult your physician if you think you have been burned by giant hogweed. If you think you have giant hogweed on your property, do NOT touch it.”

Described as “Queen Ann’s Lace on steroids”, the worrisome plant exhibits leathery, giant-sized dinner-plate leaves, thick hairy stems and erect umbrella-shaped clusters of flowers. Hogweed blooms in late spring through summer: growing up 20 feet tall at maturity, a distant relative of parsnips and carrots, hogweed develops a similar but inedible taproot. Considered poisonous, even the gophers and hoary marmots leave it alone. A biennial or perennial herb in the carrot family (Apiaceae), giant hogweed releases its sap is when touched. The U.S. Non-Native Secretariat notes, “It is especially abundant by lowland streams and rivers, but also occurs widely on waste ground and in rough pastures. It grows on moist fertile soils, achieving its greatest stature in partial shade. In more open grassland, flowering may be delayed by repeated grazing.”

Giant Hogweed In Bloom
Giant Hogweed In Bloom

The U.S. Forest Service warns. “The sap can cause phytophotodermatitis, which can lead to blisters, scarring and discoloration, and leave skin sensitive to the sun for years. And “sap in the eyes can cause temporary or possibly permanent blindness,”

Giant hogweed, also commonly known as wild rhubarb, wild parsnip, giant cow parsnip, cow parsley, cogweed or cartwheel-flower cloaks its dangerous side well, looking remarkably like a somewhat similar but less dangerous plant known as Queen Anne’s Lace or cow parsnip.

 

Government agricultural and environmental protection agencies promote public awareness of this seemingly benign danger and seek your help in eradicating hogweed. It’s dangerous. Let’s get rid of it. Should you see a stand of hogweed, the U.S. Department of Environmental Conservation requests:

  • First: Use the key on our giant hogweed identification page to try and make a positive identification. Other plants that look similar are also shown.
  • Second: Photos are needed to confirm identification. Take high-resolution photos of the entire plant, stem, leaves, flowers and seeds, making sure to keep a safe distance.
  • Third: Email DEC: ghogweed@gw.dec.state.ny.us or call the Giant Hogweed Hotline: 1-845-256-3111. Provide photos, detailed directions to the plant infestation and estimate the number of plants.
  • Fourth: If it is giant hogweed and it is on your property, DEC will contact you and may visit to assess the site and discuss management options, as resources allow.

Native to the Caucasus Mountains and southwest Asia, Giant hogweed, introduced to Britain in the 19th century as an ornamental, is now widespread in many parts of British Isles, especially around farm ponds, lakes and waterways. The invasive plant forms thick stands: displacing native habitat and reducing wildlife interest. Giant hogweed has spread to Canada, Germany, France, Ireland and the United States. It was originally introduced to France by beekeepers that valued the sweet and unique tasting honey produced by nectar from the hogweed flower.

 

The featured song “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” by Genesis, from their 1971 album Nursery Cryme, musical relates the regrettable history of the plant’s introduction to Britain. Humorously recounted the catchy tune portrays the dangers of the plant in the foreboding lines “Turn and run! Nothing can stop them, around every river and canal their power is growing.”

The featured song “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” by Genesis, from their 1971 album Nursery Cryme, musical relates the regrettable history of the plant’s introduction to Britain. Humorously recounted the catchy tune portrays the dangers of the plant in the foreboding lines “Turn and run! Nothing can stop them, around every river and canal their power is growing.”

Hogweed sap causes deep burns
Hogweed sap causes deep burns

Sap of the giant hogweed causes severe burns or skin inflammations when skin is exposed to sunlight or ultra violet light. Initially the skin turns a bright red and begins to burn and itch. Blister form on the affected skin within 48 hours. Hogweed sap causes deep and painful burning. As the skin heals the blisters form disfiguring deep purple or black scars that can last for life. The burns are so painful as to require hospitalization in the majority of cases of exposure. The severity of the reaction is the result of linear derivatives of furocoumarin in the flowers, leave, stems, seeds and root of the plant. In other words, the whole plant is toxic. These poisonous chemicals attach to the nucleus of epithelial cells, bonding with the DNA and causing cells to die. The plant is especially invasive in Germany where in 2003, more than 16,000 people were victims of the stealthy invader.

If for any reason you are likely to come in contact with the plant by handling or digging or just brushing against it on the riverbank, protective clothing and eye protection should be worn. If exposed, gently wash skin with soap and warm water, dry thoroughly and protect exposed skin from sunlight for several days.

Children are especially vulnerable and should be kept away from hogweed, taught how to identify the plant and made aware of the potential danger. Don’t risk you child’s eyesight.

By: Marlene Affeld

 

References:

US Department Of Environment Conservation

Giant Hogweed

Do Not Touch This Plant!

MSN

Giant Hogweed Warning Issued

Inquistr

Giant Hogweed Plant Invasive Warnings For Burning, Blinding Sap

Hogweed Plant Popping Up Causes Burns

Huffington Post

Giant Hogweed Plant May Cause Blindness, Severe Skin Irritation And Scarring — So Don’t Touch It

Washington Post

Giant hogweed

United States Department of Agriculture

Giant Hogweed

 

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