This is Giant Hogweed. What really makes hogweed scary is its sap, which contains toxins called furanocoumarins. Those chemicals, once exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun, bind to the DNA in the nuclei of skin cells, causing them to self-destruct. If you see one, not to touch it. If you do, wash your skin with soap and cold water as soon as possible, and stay out of the sun for at least 48 hours.
Giant hogweed (scientific name Heracleum mantegazzianum) has spread across the United States from Maine to Washington state. Hogweed’s size enables it to spew thousands of seeds into the wind, and it’s capable of expanding its range by as much as a square mile each year, according to a U.S. Forest Service.
It grows between 8 and 20 feet tall and is hardy enough to survive in everything from below zero to 95-degree temperatures. As mentioned earlier, it is highly toxic.
This is what happens if you touch this plant.
Photo of giant hogweed burn – 5 days to 5 months after initial exposure Photo credit: Bob Kleinberg
Safety precautions to follow when controlling giant hogweed plants:
· Do not touch the plant with bare skin
· Do not touch your bare skin with sap covered gloves
· Prevent UV sunlight from reaching skin by:
· wearing long waterproof gloves, long sleeves, pants, boots, and eye protection; synthetic water-resistant materials are best since cotton and linen fibers can soak up the plant sap and be penetrated by plant hairs
· If controlling plants with multiple people, keep a good distance from one another as the sap can splash three to four feet
· Apply sun block before beginning to work
· Launder clothes that may have contacted plants
· Wash equipment with water immediately after use
· Limit exposure to sunlight after control OR work around giant hogweed plants after sunset
· DO NOT use a "weed-whacker" or brush cutter – sap may splatter as stems are cut
· Keep water, soap, and eye-wash near work area in case of exposure
What should you do if you are exposed to giant hogweed sap?
· Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and COLD water as soon as possible
· Keep exposed area away from sunlight for 48 hours
· If a reaction occurs, topical steroids applied early can reduce the severity of the reaction and ease discomfort
· If sap goes in eyes, rinse them with water and wear sunglasses
· If a reaction has occurred, the area of skin may be sensitive to sunlight for a few years and you may want to apply sun block or keep the affected area covered from the sun when possible
· See a physician if you have a reaction or any questions
For more, go here: dec.ny.gov