Who’d have guessed that a relative of carrot and Queen Anne’s lace could sterilize goats and scar the faces of children?
This season’s floral horror tale may be found in E.O. Torriero’s fine article aboutHeracleum mantegazzianum, a.k.a. Giant Hogweed. With blooms big around as doilies and stems stout at sewer pipes, the plants grow to be 15 feet tall. Acquisitive gardeners of a century ago are to be forgiven their eagerness to bring this flowering giant back home, but in doing so they opened a Pandora’s box of lacerating problems.
Silje Frøysaa from Kristiansand, Norway was working in her garden last year when she noticed an exceptionally large weed making its way into her neatly hoed rows.
Going to work on the plant with one of her garden tools, she pulled it out of her garden, threw it into the woods and didn't think much about it.
Within two days she had second degree burns on both of her arms. She went to a dermatologist who told her the plant was Hogweed and its sap destroys all UV protection qualities in the skin which causes it to burn easily in the sun.
She now has dark scars and is at an elevated risk of acquiring skin cancer. Insider reported on the plant's New York invasion Tuesday, listing all the symptoms of contact. Silje saw the story, emailed the picture and described her encounter.more
If you see this plant, avoid it! Contact with the plant can cause severe skin rashes, burning blisters and long-lasting scars.
Giant hogweed makes an impressive appearance because of its height, and the size of the leaves and flower clusters. But it may spell trouble for people who are sensitive to the plant sap, a clear and watery fluid. The combination of sap on the skin and exposure to sunlight can produce painful, burning blisters within 24-48 hours. Contact with the plant sap can also result in purple or black scars.
What should I do if I come in contact with giant hogweed?
If you are exposed to the plant sap, wash it off immediately and avoid sunlight. Using sunscreen on affected areas may help prevent further reactions from occurring when outside. Call your doctor for any severe reactions. He or she may prescribe a steroid cream to relieve swelling or inflammation. For skin irritation, wet dressings or compresses soaked in an aluminum acetate mixture (your pharmacist can help you find this) may offer relief.
How do I know giant hogweed when I see it?
Giant hogweed looks a lot like some other plants, which may also cause skin reactions, such as wild parsnip. It can be as tall as 15 feet, with leaves spanning 2-5 feet. It has a thick green stem with purple areas. The stem, leaf and flower stalks are hairy. It has small white flowers in big clusters, looking like Queen Anne's Lace. In late summer, small green fruit that quickly turns brown replaces the flowers. Giant hogweed seeds are easily windblown or carried by water and spread to new areas. It grows in rich, moist soils along roadside ditches, stream banks, tree lines and wooded areas.
Can I remove the giant hogweed?
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. Seek advice from professional plant control specialists about management options. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and pants. If you get sap on your clothes or body, wash it off.
Thank you Stacie for posting about this and drawing my interest to look further into this and put this together! jlh~