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Plant that causes 3rd degree burns, blindness found in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. — Giant Hogweed, an invasive plant that can cause third-degree burns and permanent blindness, has been found in Virginia, according to researchers at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech. Contact with the plant’s sap, in combination with sun exposure, can lead to those extreme conditions.

So far, there has been just one confirmed sighting of Giant Hogweed — in Clarke County, Virginia. Experts are currently investigating potential sightings in other parts of the state.

Not only can the plant’s sap cause painful blisters, but if it gets in contact with your eyes, there is the potential for blindness, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

The plant can not only pose a threat to your skin, but it can also impact the environment. It can grow up to 14 feet, deeply shading areas and inhibiting growth of native species.

The plant’s hollow stems are generally two to four inches in diameter, with dark purple and red raised spots and bristle-like hairs. The umbrella-shaped white floral blooms grow up to two and a half feet wide.

The plant can easily be mistaken for other harmless plants, such as Queen Anne’s Lace and Cow Parsnip.

If you come across this plant, you can report sightings of an invasive species here.

If you wish to remove the plant, do not use a weed-whacker. This will cause the plant’s sap to splatter and spread quickly.  Eradication should be done by physical removal or using herbicides such as glyphosate or triclopyr. Read more about removal here.