Virginia Tech researchers hopeful positively identified Giant Hogweed will remain contained


He said the plant is easily mistaken for cow parsnips, but gardeners who aren't sure what they're looking at should back away and contact their local Virginia Tech agricultural extension agent or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

The plant has many look-alikes, but is large - about 7-to-14 feet tall.

Since the discovery others have reported giant hogweed sightings, but Martin said the Berryville plant is the only confirmed sighting.

Giant hogweed is so risky because it releases a sap that contains chemicals called photosensitizing furanocoumarins. You don't want to touch it at all - but above all else, you definitely don't want to get sap in your eye, because that's what leads to long-term light sensitivity and blindness. The white flowers on top look a little bit like Queen Anne's Lace, and sit kind of like an umbrella over the rest of the plant.

The Giant Hogweed was planted decades ago in Clarke County, Virginia, according to the researchers, and has not spread.

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The weed isn't called giant for nothing. A toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact. Here are handy tips to help you identify giant hogweed.

The unsafe plant also grows in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Giant hogweed is native to Central and Southeast Asia. Compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture - available at pharmacies - can provide relief for skin irritations.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a long list of methods for eradicating the plant-and an equally long list of warnings about what can go wrong. Caitlin O'Kane of CBS News reports that birds and waterways can also transport the seeds to new locations.

In any case, if the toxic hogweed sap comes in contact with eyes then one should rinse the eye with cold water and put on sunglasses. Seeds can grow for 10 years once they're dropped off. It was brought to the United Kingdom and to the United States in 1917 as an ornamental plant. If necessary, the DNR can even obtain a court order to eradicate it.

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