A toxic invasive plant has been found on private property east of Berryville, and people are advised to be on the lookout for it, an official with the Virginia Cooperative Extension said Monday. If you think you may have crossed paths with giant hogweed, do your fellow hikers a solid and make sure to report it as an invasive species to your local government ASAP.
On June 12, researchers at Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech identified giant hogweed in Virginia for the first time. The plant - native to the Caucasus - region looks rather benign, however, it's anything but.
Its sap contains toxic chemicals known as photosensitizing furanocoumarins.
"A similar-looking invasive plant that's been found in N.C. and Kentucky (which could eventually arrive in Tennessee), Wild Parsnip (or 'Poison Parsnip"), can also cause similar symptoms from severe itching to skin burns and blistering.
Coming into contact with hogweed can be a traumatic experience.
Skin reactions are different, depending on a person's sensitivity.
Giant hogweed is part of the carrot family, and for a toxic plant, it is surprisingly pretty.
For more on giant hogweed control, click through to the NYDEC site.
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Currently, the experts are probing into the potential sighting of the Giant Hogweed in other areas of Virginia.
Though new to Virginia, giant hogweed grows in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, CBS reports.
The photos posted at bottom of this story depicting burns from giant hogweed are graphic in nature. And if you've been potentially exposed to giant hogweed sap, stay out of the sun and see a doctor if you experience a reaction.
If your skin is exposed to the plant's sap, avoid contact with eyes and wash it off immediately with soap and cold water, advises the New York State Department of Health.
On the website of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Environmental Conservation has issues notice in which it has asked all the residents of the area to be cautious about the plant and said, " Do Not Touch this Plant". Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations. Scars from the burns can last for years, and this reaction can cause blindness if sap gets in a person's eye.
If you experience severe reactions, visit a doctor immediately.
"Giant Hogweed" sounds like a mythical plant that the students of Hogwarts may study, but it's real - and it's risky.