Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Invasive, Blinding Weed Spreads to Virginia

Health + Wellness
70023venus2009 / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

An invasive plant species whose sap can cause burns and blindness has spread to Virginia, CBS News reported Monday.


Giant hogweed looks similar to common, harmless summer wildflowers like cow parsnip and Queen Anne's lace. But it can grow to be 14 feet tall and its sap contains photosensitizing furanocoumarins that make any skin they comes in contact with more sensitive to sunburn, sometimes on a long-term basis. The sap can also cause severe blisters on the skin and blindness if it enters the eye.

The first plants spotted in Virginia were identified by scientists at Virginia Tech's Massey Herbarium in Clarke County last week.

"Today I helped ID VA's first giant hogweed population! Its sap causes severe burns. One plant was found in Clarke County. Report sightings to your extension agent!" a researcher posted on Facebook.

Researchers have identified 30 plants in the area.

Giant hogweed is native to the Caucasus mountains and southwest Asia. It was first brought to the U.S. as an ornamental plant in 1917, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition to harming any human unlucky enough to interact with it, it also crowds out native species and has been categorized as a Noxious Weed under the Plant Protection Act.

In addition to Virginia, it also grows in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Oregon and Washington, according to CBS.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) advises anyone who comes in contact with the plant to move out of the sun and wash off the impacted area with cold water. If you cannot get indoors, apply sunscreen. The reaction usually begins 15 minutes after contact. A compress soaked in aluminum acetate can also soothe the burns.

If the sap gets in your eyes, you should rinse them with cold water, wear sunglasses and seek medical attention.

Giant hogweed is also very difficult to get rid of, but you have to be careful of how you dispose of it because of the dangers posed by its sap.

"Do not mow, cut or weed whack the plant, as it will just send up new growth and put you at risk for being exposed to sap—the same kind of thing that would happen with poison ivy or sumac," the New York State DOH advises.

To effectively remove it, you have to cut plant roots, remove seed heads, mow the plants when small or use extensive amounts of herbicide, but you must wear protective gear while doing so, according to Science Alert. The New York State DOH recommends getting professional help.

Giant hogweed can be distinguished from similar-looking cow parsnip by its overall size and the size and steep incline of its leaves, which can be five feet across. In addition, its flowers are umbrella-shaped, not flat, and its stems have purple splotches, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation explains.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The CDC has emphasized that washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Guido Mieth / Moment / Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control has emphasized that washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective measures we can take in preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, millions of Americans in some of the most vulnerable communities face the prospect of having their water shut off during the lockdowns, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
A California newt (Taricha torosa) from Napa County, California, USA. Connor Long / CC BY-SA 3.0

Aerial photos of the Sierra Nevada — the long mountain range stretching down the spine of California — showed rust-colored swathes following the state's record-breaking five-year drought that ended in 2016. The 100 million dead trees were one of the most visible examples of the ecological toll the drought had wrought.

Now, a few years later, we're starting to learn about how smaller, less noticeable species were affected.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market.
Natthawat / Moment / Getty Images

Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market, raising concerns for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which threatened legal recourse against retailers selling unregistered products, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
A customer packs groceries in reusable bags at a NYC supermarket on March 1, 2020. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily routine into disarray. Billions are housebound, social contact is off-limits and an invisible virus makes up look at the outside world with suspicion. No surprise, then, that sustainability and the climate movement aren't exactly a priority for many these days.

Read More Show Less
Ingredients are displayed for the Old School Pinto Beans from the Decolonize Your Diet cookbook by Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel. Melissa Renwick / Toronto Star via Getty Images

By Molly Matthews Multedo

Livestock farming contributes to global warming, so eating less meat can be better for the climate.

Read More Show Less