We’ve all had an encounter with poison ivy, be it directly or from someone else. Even seeing someone in a movie get an alarming reaction to it has stirred up fear to never go near it! But there’s another plant you should be very wary of.
Hogweed is a large weed with white umbrella-shaped flower heads, reddish-purple stems with fine spines and spotted leaf stalks (photos, here). With the ability to produce up to 50,000 seeds a year, you’ll find the weed growing near canals and rivers about 13 feet high, with leaves up to 5 feet high.
Though hogweed may look like an ordinary plant, its toxic sap can make skin very sensitive to sunlight, resulting in burns, blistering and scarring. Whether it’s your kids playing in nature, your landscaping efforts, a hiking adventure or another outdoor activity, you may not know to look for hogweed, but you could save you and your loved ones from discomfort, pain, unsightly scars and a long healing time if you know more about it.
Hogweed doesn’t look dangerous. In fact, its immediate appeal may cause you to pluck a few stems for a summery bouquet. But the invasive species has been spreading across the United States. Having been classified by the government as a noxious weed, it can also cause blindness.
Originally from the Caucasus mountain region of Eurasia, hogweed was brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s by way of birds and waterways. It has since been identified in Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Washington and Oregon.
If you do come into contact with the plant, there are immediate steps you can take. The first is to promptly cover the area that contacted the plant to keep it out of the sun, then make your way to a dark place as soon as possible to avoid burning—especially if the area is your eyes. Next, thoroughly rinse and wash the area.
Hogweed is certainly not something you want to come in contact with, but as long as you remember what it looks like and where it can be found, you can avoid its dangers.