Mark Sutphin, an agricultural extension agent with Virginia Tech, said he wrangled a piece of Emma's giant hogweed while wearing a Tyvek suit and goggles, then brought it back to the lab for identification.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed on Tuesday that giant hogweed, a toxic weed that can grow up to 15 feet tall and resembles the less unsafe cow parsnip, was identified at a private home in Clarke County.
Giant hogweed is so unsafe because it releases a sap that contains chemicals called photosensitizing furanocoumarins.
Experts said Queen Ann's Lace is commonly mistaken for Giant Hogweed, and it is not harmful. If the sap gets into the eyes, it can cause permanent blindness. The stalks feature thorns and the plant produces large white flower blooms - it's an intimidating plant.
The sap of a giant hogweed plant causes a skin reaction called phyto-photodermatitis, according to OSU Extension.
The threat of giant hogweed is stubborn, since its seeds can remain dormant in the soil for up to 15 years.
Well, giant hogweed (despite having an ugly name) is actually kind of pretty.
It's important to know how to recognize giant hogweed if you are in a state where it might grow, and what to do if you find it. You could also soak a compress in a mixture of aluminum acetate, which is available at most pharmacies, if you think you've come into contact with the hogweed. And if the sap gets in your eyes, rinse them out as soon as you can, put on sunglasses and call your doctor.
These pesky plants spread when birds and waterways carry seeds to new locations. The plant is a native of the Caucasus region of Eurasia, between the Black and Caspian seas. "Check the site and surrounding areas for the next several years for the emergence of any hogweed seedlings or regrowth from previous year's plants". If necessary, the DNR can even obtain a court order to eradicate it.