Noxious weed alert: Giant hogweed spotted in Virginia

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The researchers have finally discovered the invasive and unsafe species of plant, Giant Hogweed in northern Virginia which can cause third-degree burns as well as blindness.

Giant hogweed originates from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas by Russian Federation - but it made its way to the U.S.by the early 20th century.

According to reports from the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech university, about 30 of these towering plants have been found in Clarke County, and locals are warned to keep an eye out for sightings.

Until recently, there have been no confirmed cased of the Giant Hogweed in the Commonwealth.

It originated in Asia's Caucasus Mountains and, according to SUNY College at Brockport, one of the first North American plantings of giant hogweed was in Rochester, New York. If the plant is in bloom, the numerous white flowers will cluster into a flat-topped "umbrella".

Virginia is now one of the few states in the USA where the plant has been found, and it can grow over 14 feet tall with large white flower clusters that can reach 2 and a half feet in diameter.

The giant hogweed, a poisonous species, is already listed in eight states, and has now been spotted in Virginia. Moreover, as said by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the sap of these plants could even result in permanent blindness if it comes in direct or indirect contact with the eyes. It tends to grow in areas with abundant light and moist soil, including along streams and rivers and in fields, forests, yards and roadsides. The toxic furanocoumarins are present in all parts of the plant: The lower parts of the hollow stems and petioles may be partly filled with sap, and the hollow hairs on the plant also contain sap.

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If you do come in contact with the weed, you're advised to wash your hands immediately with cold water and get out of the sun before contacting a healthcare professional. Scars from the burns can last for years, and the reaction can cause blindness if sap gets in a person's eye.

Once established, the plant can be spread through human transport, such as moving dirt or plants, or in natural ways, including wind and water dispersal, according to the Massey Herbarium. Avoid contact with sunlight for 48 hours.

If a reaction occurs, topical steroids applied early can reduce its severity and ease discomfort.

The plant's sap is so hazardous that it can only be handled with protective clothing and gloves. Call your health care provider in case of a severe reaction.

The officials also said that the residents should not use a weed whacker to remove the plant.

For more on giant hogweed control, click through to the NYDEC site.

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