Is This Deadly Plant Growing in Your Backyard?

Is This Deadly Plant Growing in Your Backyard?

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By: Kennedy Shelley

It resembles Queen Anne’s Lace, but it’s anything but nice.  It’s called giant hogweed.

It’s so dangerous that last summer New York state officials warned people not to touch it.

The plant has taken off like a plague in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Just touching it can cause burns on the skin and blindness according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

The plant is considered a noxious weed by the federal government.

For such a toxic plant, it can look surprisingly pretty which may be why it is proliferating at such a dangerous rate.

It made its way over to the US ten years ago from Russia and is now being spread primarily by birds, waterways and some errant gardeners.

The dangerous part of the plant is the sap which is a photosensitizing furanocoumarin.  This makes the skin highly reactive to sunlight known as phytophotodermatitis similar to when you take certain antibiotics.

This skin reaction causes horrible blisters.  And they leave scars that can last for years.

But if the sap gets in your eyes it can cause permanent blindness.

If you touch it, rinse off with soap and water as quickly as possible.  The reaction can start as soon as 15 minutes from contact with the sap.

The only way to avoid the sun blisters is to slather sunscreen on the area and avoid sun exposure.

Don’t try to mow it or use a weed whacker to take it down, you will only fling sap which might get on you.

Photosensitizing furanocoumarin’s are nothing to mess around with.  These powerful toxins create changes at the DNA level, which causes the sun sensitivity.

While the hogweed is related to the carrot family, this plant packs a noxious punch.  Some herbalists have used photosensitizing furanocoumarin plants to create natural remedies, but so far nothing good has come from the hogweed.

HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY IT?

It’s 14 feet tall, green and harry with white flowers.

Sounds like lots of things in nature.

It has purple blotches and white hairs on the stalks, and if you see them, avoid contact until you have identified the plant.

And because it is uniquely ornamental it is probably partially spread by unsuspecting gardeners who think it looks really nice.

The flowers are white and pretty and are up to two feet wide during the early summer.

But those flowers are producing up to 80,000 seeds a year which naturally spread out over 30 feet away from the plant before the birds and water further spread the seeds.

After the weed takes root in three to five years, it increases in height quickly.

GETTING RID OF IT

If you suspect that you have run into hogweed, and want to get rid of it, check with the local department of environmental conservation which will probably want to get rid of it more than you do.

This plant is amazing how it removes the ability of the skin to protect you from the sun.  And no one wants it in their neighborhood.

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