A plant that can cause 3rd degree burns, rashes and in some instances blindness is about to bloom in Ontario, according to the Weather Network. That’s right, the Giant Hogweed is coming.
Originating from Southeast Asia, Heracleum mantegazzianum, otherwise known as Giant Hogweed, is a perennial plant and actually a member of the carrot family. It has been naturalizing in North America and becoming more common in southern and central Ontario.
Every summer officials in both Canada and the U.S. warn residents not to touch the plants. It has been know to pop up in large numbers on both sides of the border, although it has not been found in the Canadian territories up north.
They have the potential to spread readily and grows along roadsides, ditches and streams. Giant Hogweed have been found to invade old fields and native habitats such as open woodlands.
The danger of the plant comes from exposure to sunlight, which causes the sap to give skin irritation, temporary or permanent blindness and scarring.
Burns acquired from the plant can continue to cause painful blisters when exposed to sunlight for up to a decade.
Giant Hogweed has managed to thrive in Canada’s various climates. Should you come into contact with the plant, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and avoid sunlight for 48 hours.
Prevention is always a good idea. Do not purchase, trade or grow the plant in your garden and only buy native or non-invasive garden plants. When you transport soil, sand or gravel make sure it is free of Hogweed; both plant parts and seeds.
If you do have to venture into a risk area where Giant Hogweed has been spotted, wear protective clothing, including waterproof gloves, long sleeve shirts, pants, and eye protection. It is ideal to wear a disposable “spray suit” coverall over top of your normal clothing (spray suits are commercial grade waterproof coveralls).
If you think you have been burned by Giant Hogweed, see a physician immediately. Sightings of the plant can be reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources.