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Plant That Causes Burns And Blindness Discovered In Virginia

Summertime is here, and that means many hours of family fun in the back yard.  However, there is a dangerous plant lurking in the shadows.  A plant has been discovered in Virginia that can be very serious and fatal to your health.  Coming in to contact with the sap of the plant, Giant Hogweed, in combination with sun exposure can result in very serious burns, and in some cases blindness.

Although currently only confirmed as being found in Clark County, investigators are working on verifying potential other discoveries in the state.  According to the New York of Environmental Conservation, simply coming into contact with the sap of the plant can cause extremely painful burns and blisters.  If the same sap should come in contact with your eyes, the investigators state it can cause permanent blindness.

Not only is the invasive plant a hazard to humans, it also poses a hazard to the environment as well.  With it growing up to 14 feet tall, the invasive plant towers over and shades areas inhibiting the natural growth of other native species of plants.

The plants stems are hollow and generally a diameter of two to four inches around.  They have dark purple and red raised spots, as well as bristle-like hairs.  The white floral blooms are umbrella-shaped and can grow up to two and a half feet wide.  The plant is often mistaken for other harmless plants, such as Queen Anne’s Lace and Cow Parsnip.

Image: Martha Stewart

Researchers are asking the public to report any sightings or discoveries of this harmful plant to proper officials.  They also caution not to try and eradicate it by using a weed whacker.  This could cause the sap to splatter and spread.  Also, they suggest not to try cutting the plant down, as this may cause dangerous exposure to the sap as well.

It is suggested, if you try to eliminate the plant yourself, that you do it by using an herbicide such as glyphosate or triclopyr.