Giant Hogweed Plant Spreads In US, Can Cause Blindness


The unwelcome giant hogweed plant is spreading further into the US, and officials are again warning people who may come across the toxic vegetation about some serious risks posed.

The giant hogweed plant, or Heracleum mantegazzianum, is related to carrot and parsnip plants, but instead of making awesome soups and delighting rabbits, hogweed expels a horribly toxic sap that can burn skin, cause years of “photosensitivity” (also known as inability to tolerate sun), and even permanently blind unlucky flower pickers.

Worryingly, the giant hogweed plant is becoming more common in the US and resembles other, benign plants like Queen Anne’s Lace.

As the giant hogweed plant goes into bloom across several states, the US Department of Agriculture and Departments of Natural Resources in many states have warned residents to be wary of the dangerous plant.

A giant hogweed plant has hairy stems and giant leaves, as well as umbrella shaped flowers — and can grow up to five meters.

One place the invasive species has been located this year is Indiana, where officials have warned residents to steer clear of blooming giant hogweed plants.

New York has been battling back the infestation of giant hogweed plants for some time, and a statewide alert on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation page blares:


Do Not Touch This Plant!

The agency lists the hazards present when handling a giant hogweed plant or coming into contact with sap, saying:

“Giant hogweed can grow to 14 feet or more … Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a Federally listed noxious weed. Its sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness. Contact between the skin and the sap of this plant occurs either through brushing against the bristles on the stem or breaking the stem or leaves.”

Residents of all states are warned not to touch a giant hogweed plant if they believe one may have grown on their property, and to instead contact local officials about the issue. Individuals who believe they may have been burned by giant hogweed sap are advised to wash the area thoroughly and avoid sun exposure to the affected area for 48 hours.