Beware of Giant Hogweed Popping Up in MD and DC

10:22 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- It may look pretty at a glance, but if you get too close experts say it can cause an unsightly reaction.

It's often times mistaken for a Queen Anne's lace because the flowers of it look alike; however, Giant Hogweed is a lot bigger and extremely toxic.

"It's a bad player so we are trying to eliminate it," said Carol Holko, Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Part of her work is administering programs to rid the state of Giant Hogweed.

"The sap of the plant is very toxic and it can cause blistering burns, [if it gets] in your eyes it can cause blindness," she said.

Maryland Department of Agriculture says it has cases Baltimore, Harford, and Garrett counties. They do not report any cases in southern Maryland. However, experts from the University of Maryland say it's starting to pop up in areas around D.C.

Virginia hasn't reported any such sightings of it.

Experts say the Giant Hogweed spread through its seeds. Once the seeds enter the local water supply it travels downstream into other regions.

"For people just out hiking or experiencing nature they are going to see it now and probably into July," Holko said. 

This is the time of year when the plants flowers begin to bloom and they are huge, according to Holko.

Unlike, its look alike Queen Anne's lace, Giant Hogweed grows on tall stems, some as large as 15 feet high.

Its sap is where the poison is at, and if it gets on you experts say you should get to an emergency room fast!

"Many times people aren't aware of what it can do until they happen to break a stem and get some sap on them, they learn quickly, she said.

The big challenge for those tasked with getting rid of Hogweed is the process to kill them off. Experts say cutting them down will release its toxic sap into the air so they have to use chemicals to kill of the roots and that can take years.

If you come across this stuff your warned to stay away and call a your local poison control center if you are in Maryland the Department of Agriculture will come out and take care of removing it.


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