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Giant Flowering Weed Proves Toxic To Humans

Giant Flowering Weed Proves Toxic To Humans

Hiking and camping are two favorite summer activities. But it’s important to remember that the great outdoors isn’t always as welcoming as it seems.

Discovery’s Emily Sohn recently reported on a giant flowering weed that’s sending some hikers and campers home with blistering burns and even blindness.

With a name like “giant hogweed” you might think it more likely to find this toxic weed on the set of the recent Harry Potter film rather than in your backyard, but researchers say this invasive species is spreading around much of the northern United States.

Standing over 15 feet-tall at its peak and featuring giant leaves and an explosion of tiny white flowers, this noxious weed looks a lot like an overgrown cluster of Queen Anne’s Lace. But you won’t want to bring it home in a bouquet.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, giant hogweed is a native of the Caucasus Mountain region between the Black and Caspian Seas. It was introduced to Europe and the United Kingdom in the late nineteenth century and to the United States in the early twentieth century as an ornamental garden plant. It has become established in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Seeds may also be distributed by birds and waterways, and can remain viable for over 10 years.

If you see this plant in the wild, don’t touch it! The giant hogweed’s sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness. Contact between the skin and the sap of this plant occurs either through brushing against the bristles on the stem or breaking the stem or leaves.

Because a single giant hogweed plant can produce over 100,000 seeds each season and casts a wide shadow, making it extremely dangerous for native flora as well.

The good news is that careful efforts are underway to control this plant’s explosive growth, and many eradication programs in the Northeast are experiencing great success.

Also Check Out:
Beware Of This Invasive Species During The Holidays
Seeds That Plant Themselves (Video)
First GM Plants Found In The Wild
8 Extremely Weird Plants

Image Credit: Flickr – debs-eye

Read more: Conservation, Health, Health & Safety, Nature, , , ,

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Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.


+ add your own
1:07AM PST on Jan 28, 2012

Thank you

9:55AM PST on Jan 25, 2012


10:12PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

Thank you for the warning.

4:34PM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

Omg, thanks for the info. It's good to know.

7:54PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

All these lingering dangers...

1:56AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

That is what I get for trusting the trusty spell checker, which has not lost its sense of humour. I selected "deniability," Thought it selected that, instead it threw down "dependability." which in an abstract way might be also correct.

1:53AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

Mary L, Perhaps not so much aliens, as they get blamed for everything from mysterious occurrences to (dependability of) the source of either sound or other unpleasant flagellation products, I tend to compare these noxious plants to our national politicians. Most of them are tall and function nothing like their benevolent appearance. In the case of NY state, lots of luck with eradication, and finding the funds to do it even with their extreme taxes, and other pests such as poison ivy and sumac, not to mention several venomous snake species and spiders to deal with.

10:34PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

It's like something out of a science fiction movie. Very scary. Maybe they're really aliens and they're trying to poison humans. (Tongue firmly in cheek)

12:33AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

hi everyone, please sign this petition and help!!

6:59PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Just think what would happen if a child touched it! Scarry thought.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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