There is nothing quite like getting outside and going for a nice walk in nature when the weather is right. In many parts of the world, springtime is here and the weather is perhaps as comfortable as it is going to be for the rest of the year. Even though you may enjoy going out for a walk in nature, it still helps to be cautious about some dangers that may not be evident when you first see them. One of those dangers is a plant that is growing in the wild. Health officials are now warning that it is a huge risk for anyone who touches it.
The plant is the giant Hogweed, or Heracleum mantegazzianum. It has been growing in various areas for quite some time but now it seems to be spreading very quickly. As it continues to appear in new areas, the danger grows because people may not be familiar with exactly what this plant is capable of doing. All you have to do is touch the sap one time and it can lead to serious burns and the potential for permanent blindness.
Giant Hogweed may also be called by other names. Some of the more common names include giant cow parsnip, giant cow parsley, cartwheel-flower, or hogsbane. Regardless of what you call it, it is dangerous.
In the United States, the plant is now reportedly growing in Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. It can grow to 14 feet high and the dark leaves may be as big as 5 feet in diameter.
The hollow stem is thick and has white hairs with purple dots and specks. There are beautiful white flowers on top but don’t let those flowers fool you. The plant is quite dangerous.
It may be tempting to pick those flowers but the plant produces a sap that has a dangerous chemical, Photosynthesizing furanocoumarins. That chemical makes it extremely photosensitive so if it comes in contact with your skin, it can cause severe burns.
The burns cause painful blisters that may show up within 48 hours. The scars can even last up to six years!
Perhaps the worst part is that if it gets in your eyes, it could cause blindness.
If you happen to come in contact with the sap, wash the area with cold water right away and get out of the sun.
If you are stuck outside, apply sunscreen to the area and pick up an aluminum acetate mixture at a local pharmacy. That may be able to give you some relief from the skin irritation.
If the sap gets in your eyes, immediately rinse with water and put on sunglasses.
You can learn more about the dangers of this weed and how to identify it in the following video: