Nearly everyone is familiar with the old adage, leaves of 3- let it be; but here is another considerably More serious plant that you should be aware of, because it’s spreading rapidly through the USA and may just be in your backyard…
The plant is commonly known as Giant Hogweed, (Heracleum Mantegazzianum), but you might know it as cartwheel-flower, giant cow parsnip, cow parsley, hogsbane, wild parsnip or wild rhurbarb, but this plant is no friend. Be aware this plant is in the USA and IS spreading rapidly.
This surprisingly pretty plant is part of the carrot family and can grow a whopping 14 feet tall, sporting large clusters of white flowers that appear much like an umbrella.
What is Giant Hogweed & Why is it Dangerous?
Giant Hogweed sap contains photosensitizing furanocoumarins that cause a skin reaction when it comes into contact with light. This light sensitive reaction takes place with 48 hours causing nasty painful blisters that can result in scars lasting months to years.
Touching the sap can cause long-term sunlight sensitivity as well as blindness if it comes into contact with ones eyes. It starts out bright red, much like a slap and develops into blisters.
In addition, the burns can reoccur for up to 10 years any time the affected area is exposed to sunlight.
Photo source of the little girls hands (Top Left) view additional photographs of the little girls hands here.
Luckily she was wearing a long sleeve shirt before she touched the plant, which is what caused the unique burn line.
What to do if you accidentally touch Giant Hogweed
Immediately wash the area with COLD water, toxic reaction occurs in as little as 15 minutes. If you’re out hiking, etc and you’ve flushed the area, apply sunscreen to it to prevent further reactions with the sun.
Warm or hot water causes the pores in the skin to open, allowing more of the toxin into the skin, spreading it rapidly. It is imperative that you use COLD water.
If at any point you think it may have gotten into your eye, flush the eye with cool water and put on sunglasses, seek emergency treatment.
How to Safely Get Rid of Giant Hogweed
Do not mow or weed-wack hogweed as you will spread the sap and that only creates new growth. Wear gloves and protective gear and pull the plant up by the roots (be aware ALL parts of the plant contain toxic sap) so if you’re not comfortable with this, consult a professional.
Where is it From?
Originally this plant was found in the Caucasus Mountains (between the Black and Caspian seas), but it spread it’s way to the United States by the early part of the 20th century. The seeds are often spread by water and by bird droppings and can grow as long as 10 years after being deposited.
Right now the plants grows rampant in several states including Alaska (where we first encountered it), Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. However, it is spreading at a rapid rate.
The plant prefers moist soil, particularly in ditches and ravines in both sun and shade. The leaves are unevenly lobed, up to 5 feet wide and the flowers grow in umbrella-shaped clusters up to 2 feet across (flowering mid-June through early August). The stems are hollow, much like bamboo and have a 2″-4″ diameter with reddish-purple blotches.
Not Sure if the plant in your yard is Giant Hogweed, here is a Plant Identification card Provided by the State of Maine.
See MORE Hogweed Burn Photographs
If you would like to see additional Photographs of Hogweed burns on both people and pets, you can do so here.