Giant weed with sap that burns skin found in NC

- The summer months mean fun outdoors, but you’ll want to avoid this pesky weed that’s planted roots in North Carolina.

More dangerous than poison ivy, giant hogweed is considered a noxious and invasive plant. It may have a funny name, but it’s no joke. The sap from its leaves is poisonous and causes severe burns to the skin, even blindness. The toxic chemicals found in the sap, known as photosensitizing furanocoumarins, react with a person’s skin when exposed to light.

The reaction causes painful blisters that can form within 48 hours and result in scars that last anywhere from a few months to six years.

Related: Wild plant with toxic sap that 'eats at your skin' is spreading

The weed isn’t called giant for nothing. It can grow up to 15 feet tall and sprout enormous leaves and flower clusters. The problem is it looks pretty, which is why Europeans brought it over from Asia to display in their gardens.

As far as the Tarheel State is concerned the plant has only been reported in Caldwell County, according to the North Carolina Invasive Plant Council. However, it has caused problems in both the northeast and the Pacific Northwest.

According to the Department of Ecological Conservation, the toxic plant can also be found in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and parts of West Virginia.

So what should you do if you accidently touch giant hogweed? The New York State Department of Health recommends the following:

  • Avoid contact with the eyes
  • Wash off the sap immediately with soap and water
  • Avoid sunlight and cover the exposed area
  • Put sunscreen of the affected area(s) to prevent further reactions
  • Call your healthcare provider.

If you find giant hogweed on your property, do not mow, cut or weed whack the plant. A new growth will form and you will put yourself at risk of being exposed to the sap. Instead, seek advice from professional plant control specialists.

More invasive plant species found in North Carolina.

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