Toxic weed found growing in Watauga County

- A plant that can cause severe burns and permanent scars is growing in North Carolina.

The giant hogweed plant has been found growing in several areas of Virginia, but the North Carolina Department of Agriculture says it's also been found growing in Watauga County. 

Doctor Michael Beuhler from the Carolina Poison Center says if you come in contact with it you need to move fast to get it off.

"Giant hogweed has a sap that can cause significant burns when it reacts with your skin and when lights hits it and you can end up with these really bad burns with blistering and they can wind up being far worse than what you think of in terms of what simple poison ivy might be,” Beuhler said.

RELATED: Toxic plant that causes severe burns and blindness found in North Carolina

The burns can be very deep, leave scars and cause blindness. 

Alex Childress has second and third degree burns to his face and arm after coming into contact with the giant hogweed.

"When I got in the shower and my face just started peeling,” Childress said. 

"If you wash it off it's more like poison ivy, but the longer it sits in the sun the more potent and toxic it gets."

The sap from the plant reacts with light causing the effects to worsen. Doctor Beuhler says reacting quickly is important.

"Immediately try to wash off the sap and get it cleaned off, get in from outside, get out of the light and get it cleaned off with gentle soap and water."

The plant native to Asia was intentionally planted here by a homeowner and the seeds shared with their neighbors. The plant is invasive and can grow as tall as 15 feet with 5 feet wide lobed leaves and white flower clusters. 

"Well the reaction will be delayed from the time that you're actually exposed most people present for care several days from the actual exposure."

They should call the NC Department of Agriculture immediately and let them know so they can handle it. The sap from the plants can also be dangerous for pets.

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