Poisonous giant Hogweed spotted in Virginia

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The sap from its leaves is poisonous and causes severe burns to the skin, even blindness.

A plant known as Giant Hogweed, whose sap can cause skin burns and permanent blindness, has spread across several USA states in the past and has now been spotted in Virginia for the first time.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed on Tuesday that giant hogweed, a toxic weed that can grow up to 15 feet tall and resembles the less unsafe cow parsnip, was identified at a private home in Clarke County.

After Michigan, New York, a researcher has discovered almost 30 plants in Virginia Tech area.

So, what's going on? If you are concerned about a plant, don't hesitate to reach out to the agriculture department.

"Cow parsnip can also cause a mild skin rash but isn't almost as unsafe as Giant Hogweed". Just by touching the plant, people can get third-degree burns and go temporarily blind.

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Giant hogweed is so unsafe because it releases a sap that contains chemicals called photosensitizing furanocoumarins. This condition makes the skin highly sensitive to ultraviolet light.

The plant causes skin reaction like dark blisters which is really painful within 48 hours of contact.

What else should I know? The stalks feature thorns and the plant produces large white flower blooms - it's an intimidating plant. Be aware of what this invasive plant looks like, so that you can steer clear. Trying to cut the plant with a mower or a weed-whacker can be extremely risky, as it could cause the sap to spray onto the operator. A toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact.

"Property owners who think they spot Giant Hogweed should not panic", Jordan Metzgar, curator of the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech, said. If you don't look too closely at it its stem, which is covered in purple splotches and coarse hair-like protrusions, the giant hogweed is nearly pretty.

If you're still unsure, check this plant identification guide and snap some clear photos.

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