Meet Hogweed, the New Plant Scourge of the U.S.
The plant's sap can cause burns so severe, some victims have needed skin grafts
Day of the Triffids. The Happening. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. All of these movies are seemingly eerily prescient in the face of recent news that the giant hogweed plant, a vicious plant seriously dangerous to humans, has been spotted in Michigan.
The plant, spotted in Calhoun County, is alarming because of its sap. Though related to carrots, the plant causes more severe problems than poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac when a person comes in contact with the substance. Though symptoms can take up to 48 hours to occur, they can include blistering and scars on the skin – sometimes severe enough to require skin grafts – and blindness if the sap comes in contact with the eyes.
“Hogweed has a toxic compound in it that is sun sensitive,” Dr. Holly Phillips told CBS News. “So if you get the sap on your skin or in your eyes and are then exposed to light, it can cause very serious reactions.”
Giant hogweed gets its name from its habit of growing up to 14 feet tall. It has long green stems dotted with red and purple, with white flowers at the top of the plant. “It’s actually very pretty to look at,” Phillips said.
The plant, Heracleum mantegazzianum, was introduced to the U.S. from Central Asia in the 1900s via arboretums and gardens. It’s also been found in New England, the Northwest and the Mid-Atlantic region. Michigan has a search-and-destroy policy toward the plant, and it’s on the federal noxious weed list, which bans interstate transport or sale of the plant.
Has anyone tried talking to it?