Around 30 noxious Hogweed have been found in Virginia

Hogweed warning sign in Canada

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

The plant, a giant hogweed, was introduced to the United Kingdom and Europe in the late nineteenth century and to the U.S. in the early 20century, and its potential threat to people is the subject of research by Virginia Tech's Jennifer Gagnon.

The giant hogweed poses a serious human health hazard because it exudes a clear watery sap containing photosensitizing agents. What's more, during winter months, the soil under the giant hogweed becomes bare and erodes more readily. The umbrella-shaped white in color flora blooms and they can bloom up to two and a half feet wide.

Virginia is now one of the few states in the U.S. where the plant has been found, and it can grow over 14 feet tall with large white flower clusters that can reach 2 and a half feet in diameter.

Giant hogweed typically grows "along streams and rivers and in fields, forests, yards and roadsides" and most commonly spreads when its seeds are dispersed by waterways and animals. It features green and purple-splotched stems covered in white hairs, huge incised leaves up to 5 feet across and a mushroom-like canopy top with 50 to 150 individual white flowers. The reaction also causes dark, painful blisters, which can leave scars.

The sap of a giant hogweed plant causes a skin reaction called phyto-photodermatitis, according to OSU Extension. Long-term sensitivity to sunlight, according to the NYDEC, is common.

If you or someone you know brushes against one of these plants, experts recommend immediately washing the affected area with soap and cold water and keeping that skin out of the sun for at least 48 hours (the reaction can begin within 15 minutes of exposure).

Giant hogweed and cow parsnip have "similar flowers and leaves" and cow parsnip's "sap can cause [a] reaction, but usually it is not as bad as hogweed", he added. That photosensitivity can last for years and if the sap gets into a person's eyes, it can cause permanent blindness.

Make sure to wear disposable gloves and protective clothing that covers the skin when working with giant hogweed.

The residents of Virginia are warned to not use a weed whacker, lawn mower or a chainsaw in order to remove it, as this can result in the sap getting scattered. If hogweed sap gets into the eye, rinse with water immediately and put on sunglasses. Always call professional authorities to properly dispose of these plants with herbicides or other methods.

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