Plant That Causes Third-Degree Burns, Blindness Found In Virginia

Leslie Hanson
June 19, 2018

This was a bad idea.

The plant grows in the wild and touching it can cause third-degree burns and even blindness.

"And, if the sap gets in your eyes, there is the potential for blindness", she added.

A Facebook post from Isle of Wight County in Virginia displays several photos of the rapid progression of blistering on the hand of someone affected by toxins from giant hogweed. One plant was found in Clarke. This is the first reported sighting of giant hogweed in Virginia, following past discoveries in NY and the Pacific Northwest. The USDA website shows it has also been found in MI and IL.

"Giant Hogweed" sounds like a mythical plant that the students of Hogwarts may study, but it's real - and it's risky. It can grow up to 14 feet, deeply shading areas and inhibiting growth of native species. It features green and purple-splotched stems covered in white hairs, huge incised leaves up to 5 feet across and a mushroom-like canopy top with 50 to 150 individual white flowers. Each plant can shed thousands of seeds which remain viable in the soil for years. The spray of white flowers looks similar to Queen Anne's Lace, but the experts at Massey Herbarium note that giant hogweed is much larger, with chunkier leaves. The Massey Herbarium said it appeared the previous landowner planted the giant hogweed at the site for ornamental reasons.


There has been reports of giant hogweed in Australia with the plant collected in Adelaide in 2007, according to the Department of Environment and Energy. The sap can get sprayed around in a risky way. Instead, you should very carefully pull the plant out by its roots or use herbicides to kill the plant.

Metzgar said that if anyone makes contact with giant hogweed, the victim should wash the sap off of the skin with cold water and soap. The toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after coming into contact with the toxic photochemicals, so you must get out of the sun. Topical steroids can reduce the severity of the burns.

If Hogweed sap gets into the eye, rinse them with water immediately and put on sunglasses. The light-sensitive skin reaction causes dark painful blisters that form within 48 hours, and result in scars that can last anywhere from a few months to six years.

In general, the NY DEC recommends contacting them (or your state DEC outside of New York) for professional removal.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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