Giant Hogweed Plant Invading Northern U.S. And Canada Causes Burns, Blisters and Blindness, Experts Warn [VIDEO]

By Philip Ross on June 21, 2013 11:05 AM EDT

giant hogweed plant
Giant hogweed plant is a formidable foe. Its toxic sap causes severe burns and blistering, and even blindness. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Giant hogweed plant, a dangerous flowering weed that causes burns, blisters and even blindness, is cropping up in the U.S. and Canada. The invasive species of noxious weed, which can tower to 23 feet tall, has thick, hollow, hairy stems, spotted leaf stalks and umbrella-shaped white flowers. The giant hogweed plant is a relative of carrots and parsnips, but don't be fooled by its more benign kin; the weed is dangerous, and experts warn to avoid it.

Like Us on Facebook

According to the U.S. Forest Service, giant hogweed is seen in western and eastern parts of the U.S., including the states of Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Maryland and New Jersey. There are also reports that the plant's territory is rapidly expanding, with reports of the noxious weed sprouting in Indiana.

"We are trying to get rid of it," Philip Marshall, Division Director for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology, told WTHITV. "It has a big flower and there are a lot of look alikes."

UPI reports that multiples states have issued warnings against the giant hogweed plant, also known as Heracleum mantegazzianum. Part of the problem with properly eradicating it is that the weed looks a lot like other, less harmful plants called cow parsnip and Queen Anne's Lace.

The giant hogweed plant is an invasive species of noxious weed, brought to North America and Britain in the 19th century as an ornamental plant. It originates from the mountains of Central Asia, and first appeared in New York about 100 years ago, spreading from there. It's winged seeds are excellent germinators and can travel for miles on wind or float down rivers.

According to the Washington Post, the plant is very sensitive to human handling; simply brushing up against the giant hogweed plant can trigger the release of its dangerous and toxic sap.

The plant's sap, when it comes in contact with human skin, causes phytophotodermatitis, an itchy, burning inflammation that creates blisters, discoloration and scarring. The burn can take months to heal and the skin can remain sensitive to the sun for years after contact.

"The offending toxins are furanocoumarins, which, with the aid of ultraviolet light, bind to a skin cell's nuclear DNA, causing the cell to self-destruct," Washington Post reports.


Read more from iScience Times:

Giant Squid Mystery; DNA Evidence Sheds Light On Elusive Sea Monster [VIDEO]

Derecho Warning: Thunderstorm, Tornado, Hail, And 240 Mile Giant Storm To Affect 64 Million Americans [VIDEO & REPORT]

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Sponsored From Around the Web

    ZergNet
Follow iScience Times
us on facebook RSS
 
us on google
 
Most Popular
INSIDE iScience Times
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet  Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)